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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.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
16 mins ago - Health

Pfizer CEO feels "liberated" after taking COVID vaccine

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tells "Axios on HBO" that he recently received his first of two doses of the company's coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: Bourla told CNBC in December that company polling found that one of the most effective ways to increase confidence in the vaccine was to have the CEO take it.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
19 mins ago - Economy & Business

Ripple CEO: SEC lawsuit is "bad for crypto" in the U.S.

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse tells "Axios on HBO" that if his company loses a lawsuit brought by U.S. regulators, it would put the country at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to cryptocurrencies.

Between the lines: The SEC in December sued Ripple, and Garlinghouse personally, for allegedly selling over $1.3 billion in unregistered securities. Ripple's response is that its cryptocurrency, called XRP, didn't require registration because it's an asset rather than a security.