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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

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Aug 11, 2020 - Science

SpaceX and ULA pull in huge defense contracts

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket takes flight. Photo: SpaceX

The Space Force's announcement last week that United Launch Alliance and SpaceX will launch expensive spy satellites and other military payloads brings a long and often fierce battle for government funds to an end — at least for now.

Why it matters: This type of government money — particularly in light of the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic — is key for space companies that often work on thin margins.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
11 mins ago - Economy & Business

The winners and losers of the pandemic holiday season

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The pandemic has upended Thanksgiving and the shopping season that the holiday kicks off, creating a new crop of economic winners and losers.

The big picture: Just as it has exacerbated inequality in every other facet of American life, the coronavirus pandemic is deepening inequities in the business world, with the biggest and most powerful companies rapidly outpacing the smaller players.

Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

The daily rate of new coronavirus infections rose by about 10 percent in the final week before Thanksgiving, continuing a dismal trend that may get even worse in the weeks to come.

Why it matters: Travel and large holiday celebrations are most dangerous in places where the virus is spreading widely — and right now, that includes the entire U.S.