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HEO Robotics Monitors Satellites and Debris from Space Using AWS


High Earth Orbit Robotics (HEO Robotics) has a mission to provide automated visual insights on virtually any object, satellite, or debris in our solar system. As the world’s first commercial satellite-to-satellite intelligence company, HEO Robotics has grown rapidly to support governments, defense agencies, and commercial operators in visually monitoring objects from orbit. At the center of its services is its cloud-based orbital network that is built on Amazon Web Services (AWS). 

HEO Robotics is using AWS to securely connect and centralize satellites and sensors in the cloud, transforming the previously complex and manual operations of space-based solutions. Using managed services such as Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), which makes it simple to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud, HEO Robotics is retrieving images from across the solar system and scaling to meet the diverse needs of large organizations.

HEO Robotics

When we’re able to shorten the timeline by improving our external parameters and building our own satellites, we know that we can adapt on AWS to support our goals.”

Hiranya Jayakody
Chief Technology Officer, High Earth Orbit Robotics

Advancing Space Sustainability

Founded in 2016, HEO Robotics supports the growth of space-based services that provide critical infrastructure and solutions to life on Earth. Its proprietary software equips Earth observation satellites with in-orbit inspection capabilities, providing stakeholders with access to timely, detailed, and actionable insights of a satellite’s performance and potential risks. HEO Robotics’s services are also used by governments to increase space situational awareness by characterizing objects in orbit and predicting their trajectories. “The number of satellites launched has increased dramatically, and commercially developed space situational awareness technology, including from space-based cameras, is critical to space sustainability,” says Aude Vignelles, chief technology officer of the Australian Space Agency.

HEO Robotics’s application assesses the risk of orbital debris and evaluates the state of satellites. The US Department of Defense’s Space Surveillance Network tracks more than 27,000 pieces of “space junk,” which poses a risk to active satellites and the sustainability of space operations. To track these objects, HEO Robotics repurposes cameras from in-orbit satellites instead of launching its own, mitigating rather than contributing to orbital debris. “Having cameras in space much closer to these assets helps us generate specific insights that aren’t available from traditional ground-based sensors,” says Dr. Hiranya Jayakody, chief technology officer of HEO Robotics. “We are passionate about responsible space custodianship, sustainability, and trust.” Since its inception, HEO Robotics wanted to rely on cloud-native services to deliver space-based solutions. After exploring potential providers, HEO Robotics chose AWS for its advanced automation capabilities and high scalability. HEO Robotics was also able to inherit compliance controls from AWS so that it could meet international regulatory standards and customers’ security needs. “We saw that AWS was supporting space startups and the Australian space sector,” says Hiranya. “After a few deep-dive conversations, we realized that AWS services could provide what we needed to monitor satellites and debris from space.”

Managing Satellite Data on AWS

Using HEO Robotics’s AWS-powered services, organizations can automatically monitor potentially dangerous space objects for size, shape, and other important parameters—all of which would be far more difficult to do using traditional ground-based sensors. The company can transform Earth observation satellites into fully capable in-orbit inspection cameras that return detailed imagery of satellites or debris to Earth. HEO Robotics also uses automated image processing and noise reduction to further enhance and extract additional insights. Using this data, stakeholders can engage in strategic decision-making, such as risk analysis, maintenance prediction, and international security access.

HEO Robotics’s entire operation is data reliant and imposes heavy loads on data pipelines. By using Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS)—a fully managed container orchestration service—and Amazon RDS, the company can optimize speed at each step of data delivery and retrieval to deliver insights to its customers as quickly as possible. On AWS, HEO Robotics transformed manual processes into automated ones, reducing time to complete tasks from over 24 hours to under 1 hour. As the company expands, it has the capacity to scale on Amazon RDS without sacrificing speed. “You can really take advantage of the elastic expansion of Amazon RDS—it will grow if it needs to,” says Hiranya.

HEO Robotics completes its core development using different testing and production environments, necessitating the operation of multiple types of containers at once. On AWS, HEO Robotics has the flexibility to automatically scale environments to meet its needs. “Using Amazon ECS minimizes touch points—you can package and deploy code bases in containers, and you’re done,” says Hiranya. This simplicity frees the team to focus on innovation.

HEO Robotics’s customers need to receive insights as quickly as possible to validate telemetry or respond to emerging events. To achieve this, the company automatically tasks, takes, and retrieves images from over 25 space-based sensors. It uses Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), which provides secure, resizable compute capacity for virtually any workload, to maximize the efficiency of this operation. “Using Amazon EC2 instances, we can quickly spin up GPU-based instances and move through our processing quickly,” says Hiranya. As a result, HEO Robotics has reduced its time to deliver insights from days to hours—and it is getting faster daily.

Using AWS infrastructure, HEO Robotics can deliver services reliably, which is crucial for customers that use its services to monitor assets with significant capital expenditure behind them. The company sees image-capture success rates that exceed 80 percent, even for difficult-to-image objects like rocket bodies traveling at high velocities or satellites passing at close distances.

Launching into the Future

As HEO Robotics looks to increase its coverage across our solar system and expand the types of insights that it can provide to customers, it has confidence that it can keep up on AWS. “When we’re able to shorten the timeline by improving our external parameters and building our own satellites, we know that we can adapt on AWS to support our goals,” says Hiranya. The company is experimenting with using AWS Ground Station—a fully managed service that lets users control satellite communications, process data, and scale operations without building or managing their own ground station infrastructure—to build a complete data pipeline.

HEO Robotics has a fast-growing base of global customers, each with their own requirements for space-based inspection capabilities—which ultimately means more data that needs processing. “Even though we work in space, we are a data intelligence company,” says Hiranya. “Our business is handling increasingly more data and producing more insights that need more concurrent processes, so scalability on AWS is very important to us.”

About High Earth Orbit Robotics

High Earth Orbit Robotics (HEO Robotics) helps governments and private satellite operators monitor the assets that they have in orbit. Its proprietary software equips Earth observation satellites with in-orbit inspection capabilities.

Benefits of AWS

  • Can scale to support growth
  • Gained flexibility and scalability that supports innovation
  • Meets customers’ security needs and compliance standards
  • Delivers insights from raw data in hours instead of days
  • Sees image capture success rates beyond 80%
  • Completes tasks in under 1 hour versus over 24 hours

AWS Services Used

Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS)

Amazon ECS is a fully managed container orchestration service that makes it easy for you to deploy, manage, and scale containerized applications.

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Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2)

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) offers the broadest and deepest compute platform, with over 500 instances and choice of the latest processor, storage, networking, operating system, and purchase model to help you best match the needs of your workload.

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Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS)

Set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud with just a few clicks.

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Amazon Ground Station

AWS Ground Station is a fully managed service that lets you control satellite communications, process data, and scale your operations without having to worry about building or managing your own ground station infrastructure.

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