Categories: AerospaceAM for Space

Lockheed Martin’s Pony Express 1 satellite features 3D printed parts

3D printed wideband antenna housing developed at the Advanced Technology Center.

Lockheed Martin just launched the Pony Express 1 mission as a hosted payload on Tyvak-0129, a next-generation Tyvak 6U spacecraft. The Pony Express 1, now being tested in-orbit, is a “rapid prototyping cubesat that will enable artificial intelligence, data analytics, cloud networking and advanced satellite communications in a robust new software-defined architecture.

“Early on-orbit data show Pony Express 1 is performing its important pathfinding mission very well. Lockheed Martin’s HiveStar technology onboard will give our customers unparalleled speed, resiliency and flexibility for their changing mission needs by unlocking even greater processing power in space,” said Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space. “This is the first of several rapid, self-funded experiments demonstrating our ability to systematically accelerate our customers’ speed to mission while reducing risk from new technologies.”

Pony Express 1, an example of rapid prototyping, was developed, built and integrated in nine months, and was funded completely by Lockheed Martin Research and Development funding. This orbital proving ground is validating payload hardware and software, and is packed with new technology that fits into a satellite the size of a shoebox.

One of the key technologies being flight-tested is a 3D printed wideband antenna housing developed by Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center. A software-defined radio allows for high-bandwidth hosting of multiple RF applications, store-and-forward RF collection, data compression, digital signal processing and waveform transmission. In fact, more advancements focus on the HiveStar software, which validates advanced adaptive mesh communications between satellites, shared processing capabilities and can take advantage of sensors aboard other smart satellites to customize missions in new ways previously difficult to achieve in space.

Pony Express 1 is a dual-use payload that enables mesh networks in space through HiveStar and a second function that tests space to ground remote sensing. Future research missions this year, like Pony Express 2, will further advance cloud networking concepts among satellites, as well as validating Lockheed Martin’s SmartSat software-defined satellite architecture which enables streamlined hosting of flexible mission apps. This mission consists of two 12U cubesats with faster, more capable ultra-scale processors that unlock in-orbit data analytics and artificial intelligence. Equipped with miniaturized cross-link and precision timing, Pony Express 2 is a trailblazer for autonomous teaming in space and true cloud networking.

Davide Sher

Since 2002, I have built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, I spent 12 years in the United States, where I received my Bachelor of Arts undergraduate degree. As a journalist covering the tech industry - especially the videogame industry - for over 10 years, I began covering the AM industry specifically in 2013, as blogger. In 2016 I co-founded London-based 3D Printing Business Media Ltd. (now 3dpbm) which operates in marketing, editorial, and market analysis & consultancy services for the additive manufacturing industry. 3dpbm publishes 3D Printing Business Directory, the largest global directory of companies related to 3DP, and leading news and insights websites 3D Printing Media Network and Replicatore. I am also a Senior Analyst for leading US-based firm SmarTech Analysis focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets.

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