Craft Prospect developing next-generation AI-powered context imager and data processing module

UK-based space engineering practice Craft Prospect Ltd (CPL) is developing a successor to its Forwards Looking Imager (FLI), a neural-network-powered imaging payload for small satellite platforms which provides contextual information on the Earth observation (EO) environment in addition to image data.

Forwards Looking Imager

In the Salient project, funded by the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI), Craft Prospect is partnering with XCAM Ltd to integrate their state-of-the-art Nuscis system as the camera module of the next-generation context sensor. The imager’s AI-augmented data processing capability will be supplied by a CPL-developed module hosting its Astral Intelligence mission and data autonomy software. This module is also being developed as a standalone system, providing application-ready data processing and handling for instrument payloads.

The context imager will target key customer use cases, including cloud-sensitive beam steering for optical communications, agile tasking of primary instrument payloads, and payload data optimisation activities through data collocation and fusion. The standalone data processing module will target instrument-centric activities, including neural-network-augmented inference, processing, and compression of payload data to overcome data bottlenecks and latency challenges prevalent in small satellite EO missions.

The activity will conclude with demonstration of the context imager and data processing module against customer-derived reference scenarios, integrated within a high-fidelity real-time spacecraft simulator. Key aspects of the development will be integrated into CPL’s OPS-SAT VOLT mission, due for launch in 2025.

Murray Ireland, Head of Products at Craft Prospect Ltd, said, “Our first-generation FLI has been a critical technology in unlocking autonomous capabilities in satellite missions. With our next generation development, we can utilise the Nuscis module’s superior image quality and the latest advancements in embedded AI systems to deliver a context sensor which is far more powerful, configurable and versatile.”

Karen Holland, CEO of XCAM Ltd, said, “We’re really excited to be working in close partnership with Craft Prospect on the supply of an engineering model for the development of their context imager. We expect that our stereo CMOS Nuscis system will support a wide range of monitoring applications from satellites.”

Craft Prospect Ltd was founded in 2017 to address identified challenges and opportunities in the NewSpace industry, using state-of-the-art crossover technologies including AI and quantum cryptography. They have developed several products to deliver these technologies into space systems and combine these products with an experienced mission architecture and systems engineering approach, allowing optimal and holistic use of these technologies in modern satellite missions.

Award-winning imaging systems specialist XCAM designs and manufactures highly specialised complex digital camera systems for challenging scientific, industrial, environmental and space applications. They are one of only a few companies in the world to offer complete bespoke imaging sensor camera solutions. With over 25 years’ background in the scientific and industrial imaging market, XCAM have a worldwide reputation for their ability, reputation, expertise, and outstanding knowledge in their field.

The Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation was originally established in 2007 to realise an excellent, internationally competitive national Earth observation instrument and technology research and development programme. The CEOI is funded by the UK Space Agency with parallel technology investment from industry. Its key aim is to develop UK innovative technologies to observe Earth from space through the teaming of scientists and industrialists.