Artist's illustration of a Chameleon satellite. Image: Hypergiant Industries

A planned network of satellites — called the Chameleon Constellation — represents a new, flexible way of building and using fleets of satellites.

Why it matters: At the moment, it takes years, if not decades, to build and deploy satellite constellations in part because of the software and hardware development that needs to happen on the ground ahead of launch.

  • Chameleon, built by Hypergiant Industries in partnership with the U.S. Air Force, however, is designed to be updated depending on what people on the ground need.
  • "This new constellation exemplifies modern software development techniques in space," Ben Lamm, Hypergiant Industries founder, told Axios via email.

Details: Hypergiant unveiled its Chameleon prototype this week, with plans to launch its first satellite of this kind to orbit as part of a Cygnus spacecraft supply run to the International Space Station expected early next year.

  • After testing that prototype, the company aims to build the constellation up to 24–36 spacecraft that will be able to communicate with one another in space and beam data to ground stations on Earth.

The big picture: The satellites will be designed to use machine learning to analyze data fed to the spacecraft from other space-based assets, Lamm said.

  • "Another use case is that the constellation could be real-time retasked for other use cases such as imaging or communications," Lamm added. "Think of it as a group of satellites that work together and can change their function based on the need from the ground."

Go deeper

Jun 2, 2020 - Science

NASA passes the torch

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

With the historic crewed SpaceX launch last weekend, NASA passed the torch to private companies that will need to step up to build the economy the space agency envisions in orbit.

Why it matters: This new era of spaceflight will likely be marked by new conflicts — possibly including product placement (like the Tesla that drove the astronauts to the pad on Saturday), safety concerns and cultural differences between companies, the space agencies and people they serve.

Robert Mueller speaks out on Roger Stone commutation

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill on Wednesday July 24, 2019. Photo: The Washington Post / Contributor

Former special counsel Robert Mueller responded to claims from President Trump and his allies that Roger Stone was a "victim" in the Justice Department's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, writing in a Washington Post op-ed published Saturday: "He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so."

Why it matters: The rare public comments by Mueller come on the heels of President Trump's move to commute the sentence of his longtime associate, who was sentenced in February to 40 months in prison for crimes stemming from the Russia investigation. The controversial decision brought an abrupt end to the possibility of Stone spending time behind bars.

Trump dons face mask during Walter Reed visit

Trump wearing a face mask in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on July 11. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump wore a face mask during his Saturday visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, according to AP.

Why it matters: This is the first known occasion the president has appeared publicly with a facial covering as recommended by health officials since the coronavirus pandemic began, AP writes.