Digantara has successfully launched the world’s first, commercial, space-based space weather monitoring system, ROBI (ROBust Integrating proton fluence meter).
The system launched into LEO on June 30, 2022, at 1800 hrs, IST, from SHAR, India, on Indian Space Research Organizations’ PSLV-C53 mission. The system is the smallest, digital space weather instrument in existence and one of the first commercial payloads to use the PSLVs Orbital Experimental Platform (POEM), which is the stabilized fourth stage of the PSLV rocket that can be used by commercial spacecraft operators to demonstrate their capabilities.
Since the launch on June 30, Digantara has successfully established communication with ROBI and has been receiving data sets as expected. This will enable Digantara to solve a major problem the space industry is facing – tracking and evading space weather events. Once in LEO, ROBI captures proprietary, near real-time, space weather information for its Space Mission Assurance Platform (Space – MAP), a ground-breaking platform that seeks to aid stakeholders in avoiding collisions, from mission conception to end of life de-orbiting.
ROBI’s increased number of data points means Digantara can model and predict the near-earth radiation environment with high fidelity and confidence. This data will be critical for various applications including power, aviation, satellites, launch vehicles, navigation and radio communications, in preparation for space weather events.
Space weather is a complex phenomenon, and major space weather events can have significant repercussions on both space and terrestrial systems. According to estimates, a significant space weather event can result in damages of up to $3.4 trillion. In February of 2022, a solar storm cost SpaceX around 40 of its satellites and the European Space Agency (ESA) Swarm constellation operators observed a sixfold increase in the sink rate of its satellites owing to solar drag.
Space weather has always been an implicit component of space situational awareness (SSA), and is significantly dependent on various factors, making predictions difficult. The current scientific capability allows for statistical and analytical models to examine radiation in the near-earth environment. However, these models have well known drawbacks and employ drastic approximations.
In the middle of 2021, Kalaari Capital backed Digantara with a seed funding of $2.5 million. Following this funding, Digantara aggressively moved toward developing and strengthening its capabilities and furnishing a tech demonstration of its hardware infrastructure by sending an asset to space in less than a year.
“With a growing number of satellites and space debris currently orbiting Earth, there is a need for heightened monitoring to ensure safer space activities,” said Anirudh Sharma, CEO and Co-Founder of Digantara. “Just as Air Traffic Service (ATS) is essential to the aviation sector, we seek to leverage Space – MAP’s capabilities to make Digantara essential to space traffic management, monitoring and tracking debris to prevent potential collisions. Our latest launch with ROBI will enable us to expand these capabilities to tracking weather in low earth orbit, with truly diverse applications.”
“In the New Space economy, it is imperative we have the capability to anticipate and monitor such events,” said Tanveer Ahmed, Chief Technology Officer of Digantara. “ROBI’s extremely small footprint (less than 1 cm in size) with power consumption of less than 20mW and the simplicity of integration, makes it ideal to place in any satellite that goes to space, irrespective of size, shape or application. This will enable Digantara to increase the amount of empirical space weather data that will be available in quasi-real time.”
“Combining orbital predictions with precise space radiation data, we can build higher fidelity orbit prediction models that can generate realistic conjunction data messages,” said Rithwik Neelkantan, Senior Applications Engineer for Digantara. “Space – MAP provides alerts to space-based and terrestrial systems against space weather events, helping to characterize space weather in a more cost efficient and sustainable way, further strengthening Digantara’s comprehensive SSA services.”
Digantara is the world’s first space-based active orbital surveillance platform building one-stop solutions for space operations. Based in Bengaluru, India and founded in December of 2018, the company is taking the first step toward enabling a circular space economy through Space – MAP, an end-to-end solution that seeks to aid stakeholders from mission conception to end of life de-orbiting. Digantara is working to deploy a constellation of satellites equipped with its patented sensors to track objects and space weather in low earth orbit, providing essential data that will help to avoid in-space collisions. The spacetech company is also collaborating with the satellite insurance industry to develop effective environmental risk models to provide on-orbit insurance with greater confidence. Digantara aims to bring all stakeholders to the same table when it comes to space safety and sustainability.