Revolutionizing Space Infrastructure: ANT61 Smart Robots

April 8, 2024 – Mikhail Asavkin

Space infrastructure plays a key role in maintaining civilization on Earth. From moving goods around the globe and monitoring the effects of global warming, such as forest fires and floods, to everyday transactions, such as buying a donut at your favorite cafe, our everyday lives depend on satellites in orbit.

At ANT61, we want to make sure these satellites are still there when you need them. As humanity evolves, the importance of space infrastructure will only grow, and it’s about time we start using the same approach to maintaining it. On Earth, if something breaks down in a factory or a power plant, we don’t build a replacement. Instead, we send a repair team with spare parts, and even better yet, we monitor the components wear and replace them before they break down.

At ANT61, we create technology that enables us to use the same common-sense approach for space infrastructure.

Historically, there have been two obstacles to applying this approach in space. First, when something breaks down in orbit, it’s extremely difficult to send a crew out to understand what went wrong, and dead satellites can’t call home to explain what happened. Second, it’s way too expensive to send humans to repair something in space. One notable exception to this rule was several multi-billion dollar Space Shuttle missions to refurbish the Hubble Space Telescope.

What we do

ANT61 is providing solutions for both: our Beacon product allows satellite operators to understand what went wrong with their satellite and restore them back to operation.
For larger and more expensive satellites, we are building robots that will dock, refuel and, in the future, refurbish satellites, prolonging their useful life. At the core of these robots lies ANT61 BrainTM, the innovative devices that combine machine vision and decision-making technology, enabling the autonomy of these maintenance robots. Autonomy is very important as, due to the speed of light limitations, it won’t be possible to control every movement of these robots remotely from Earth.

The first generation of the ANT61 Brain uses the BrainChip AkidaTM chip for power-efficient AI and is currently on board the Optimus-1 satellite, which was deployed recently by the SpaceX Transporter-10 mission. We will test ANT61 Brain later this year and perform training and evaluation of various neural networks that we will use for future in-orbit servicing technology demonstrations.

We chose to partner with BrainChip because we believe that neuromorphic technology will bring the same exponential improvement in AI as 20 years ago. The shift from CPU to GPU opened doors to deep neural network applications, which are at the core of all AI technologies today. Neuromorphic technology is also perfect for space: the lower power consumption means less heat dissipation, and we can get up to five times more computational power for the same electrical power budget.

Our vision for the future

Humanity’s expansion to the cosmos requires infrastructure that can only be built by robots. With the in-orbit servicing experience, ANT61 will become the main supplier of the robotic workforce for Moon and Mars installations, enabling companies from Earth to project their ambition to space, providing valuable services and resources for future off-world factories and cities.

We believe that in 20 years, 10 billion people on Earth will be able to look up and see the city lights on the night side of the lunar crescent. The space industry will transform from a place for the elite few to one open to everyone.

If you are coming out of college or pondering a career change, now is a great time to join a space company.