A quick Google search might tell you that the “space race” was a 20-odd-year-long struggle between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, in what was essentially a competition of who could conquer space first. Many years, and many millions of dollars later, we appear to be still embroiled in a competition of who gets to dominate the unquantifiable boundaries of space and how much of it we’re able to control. Considering the vast expanse of the unknown that we’re presented with, many have paused to question why space exploration is such an essential concern for us in the first place.

Of the many reasons why we pursue an improved understanding of the galaxy at large is our fascination with the unknown and the possibility of life off-planet. The yearly list of blockbuster hits and sci-fi releases is enough to tell us that we use our imagination to fill in the gaps of what we don’t know about the outside world but if science, research, and further exploration are able to fill in the gaps, who are we to complain? Apart from our fascination with space, a large number of our technological advances have been spurred on by protecting ourselves from everything that is out there and improving our quality of life back home. These changes are greatly a result of our satellite launches and surveillance technology that allows us to review conditions from a more distanced perspective. 

Space telescopes and satellites have multiple uses, with asteroid warnings being one of them. A 130-foot asteroid, XN11, was seen hurtling towards Earth back in December 2023, but the potentially hazardous mass was thankfully one that skirted by without crashing into us. NASA’s Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) is one such system in place for early warnings about such occurrences. In cases where collision is imminent, there is often little that can be done realistically to stop such objects, but the National Planetary Defense Strategy guide is one of the many examples of the planning being done in preparation for such eventualities where NEOs or Near-Earth Objects move too close to the planet.

Space tech goes beyond just defending ourselves from space as well. NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, with the use of extensive satellite data, recently revealed that 2023 was the hottest year on record. Exploring the phenomenon, Universe Today expanded on the events that we witnessed last year as a sign, or perhaps a result, of these rising temperatures. From recording breaking heatwaves to uncontrollable forest fires, we witnessed it all last year and this quantifiable evidence provided by satellite tech made it hard to deny the facts.

Reading through our repeated references to NASA, it might potentially feel like government-based organizations are the only ones furthering our progress with space but that’s far from the truth. While governments do in fact have a role to play in designing and launching such technology themselves, there is also considerable room for them to extend their resources towards funding and supporting such endeavors by private players. From developing 3D technology to simplify and reduce the cost of production of space tech, to crafting innovative uses for already available machinery, there are many companies that have been contributing to space research relentlessly in their own ways. The growing industry of space tourism aside, there are many potential applications of our research and understanding of space.

Kuva Space

Kuva Space—Turning Space Exploration Into A Planetary Phenomenon

Crossing borders and surpassing the limits of what a single company can do with such technology, Kuva Space is an example of a business that puts its purpose first. With an aim to “leave a lasting legacy for generations to come,” Kuva Space has made major investments in launching microsatellite constellations and getting real-time hyperspectral insights on the status of various global metrics from food security to climate change. Not only does the company provide insight into global yield forecasts but their work on situational awareness can alter how we perceive threats to our environment and respond to them in a more timely sense.

Malathy Eskola, Director of Marketing and Communications at Kuva Space, was able to provide us with critical insight into the realm of space technology and how the roles of the government and private forces overlap today. 

“We definitely need more private forces joining the space race. In the past two years, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in the US has awarded more than 20 commercial contracts, including some subscription-based ones, to various private space companies. Private companies’ dynamism, creativity, efficiency, and agility will be crucial drivers for innovation in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

You need to approach these from where the ideas are and have frameworks to support the companies developing and commercializing them.” 

Technowize: Could you elaborate a little bit more on this perspective and the kind of frameworks that would be most helpful right now?

Collaborations between government agencies such as NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and private companies can combine resources, expertise, and funding to accelerate new services and technology development, streamline processes, and reduce costs.

With the cost of launch and miniaturization of satellites, New Space companies’ innovations are fueling the information gap more cost-effectively. Kuva Space is a good example of such innovation. We are on a mission to build the world’s most extensive hyperspectral satellite constellation that will deliver a diverse set of ready-to-use near real-time insights on food security, carbon sequestration verification, environmental monitoring, and safety and security applications at the cost of approximately one scientific mission with a monthly daily revisit. 

Low Earth Orbit partnerships between governmental and commercial space companies in the US augment the information and capability they lack, with the US model typically being commercial partnerships rather than grants, which is the typical form of collaboration in the EU. The hybrid space architecture concept in the US interconnects commercial and public satellite capabilities to optimize space assets and operations to deliver information with less latency and cost. A similar shift to adopting the hybrid model is taking place in the EU, as evidenced by the integration of nine EU startups into the network of Copernicus Contributing Missions, which will provide additional capabilities to EU-owned Sentinel satellites. Kuva Space was the only selected New Space startup to provide hyperspectral imagery. 

Collaborating with public organizations in the early application development and commercialization phase can help nascent technologies, like hyperspectral, gain a faster adoption rate. Once the product-market fit is established, scaling it to broader commercial markets becomes more fluent.

Space tech

Technowize: From our understanding, most research into space technology takes place from a competitive standpoint of “our country first.” Do you think this is the way forward?

The existential issue that our planet is currently facing is not limited to any particular geographical area. To save our planet, we need to come together and work collectively. Programs like Copernicus, a centralized EU program, have contributed to our understanding of Earth globally. As we move forward, increasing regional and global public-private partnerships are necessary. We can tackle the urgent climate crisis by democratizing information obtained from space.

Technowize: When we talk about space research, most of us only think about space exploration and how far we can go, but Kuva Space is doing something entirely innovative, looking back home to understand the resources we have here. What leads the innovation at the company?

We have a strong history at Kuva Space of building nanosatellites with innovative payloads for clients such as the European Space Agency, and we are proud to say that we have achieved a 100 percent mission success rate. 

In 2021, we embarked on a new mission – “improving life on Earth.” The Reaktor Hello World launch in 2018, our first nanosatellite mission that carried the world’s smallest infrared hyperspectral imager into space, was a crucial moment for us, where we demonstrated how to fit a scientific-grade hyperspectral imager into a nanosatellite that weighs less than 2.4 kg (5.29 lbs) and produce usable data. 

With the world facing significant challenges, monitoring the planet daily and having readily analyzed data to detect, identify, and predict changes is crucial. Decision-makers in public and commercial domains require access to new near real-time insights to make sound decisions, leading us toward a sustainable future.


Technowize: The SUNSTORM mission must have been a big moment for the company. What are the kinds of learnings from such programs that should prompt further investments from international governmental agencies and are there collaborations with such institutions that have happened since?

SUNSTROM was a proud moment for us. In just 16 months, we designed and built the CubeSat platform and the mission’s satellite operation and ground station services. For Kuva Space, the mission sets a new precedent in how CubeSats transition from high-risk proof-of-concept missions to fully operational, high-availability monitoring campaigns with usable scientific data. With promising results from the SUNSTORM mission, new XFM versions are underway for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) next SWFO space weather satellite, scheduled for launch in 2025. We look forward to seeing this liftoff.

Collaboration between various stakeholders to advance space technology is needed. Relying on a centralized framework alone might slow innovation or be too costly. The dynamics of commercial-public partnerships provide a unique opportunity to test out and unlock new services that can accelerate our understanding of the Earth and space. By making space more accessible, we advance the prosperity of humans.

Technowize: We’ve heard some reports of satellite overcrowding and space congestion in low-Earth orbit. Do you believe this is a real concern and are there things we can be doing about it? 

Yes, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) is becoming increasingly crowded, and new legislation is being put in place to require satellite decommissioning after a certain period of operation. Several space companies are working to address the growing problem of space debris, but scalable solutions are needed. Funding must be directed towards programs and initiatives that can make a difference.

Kuva Space aims to launch a 100-satellite constellation by the year 2030. Our satellites weigh less than 30 kg (66 lbs) and have a planned operational lifetime of 5 years. At the end of their lifespan, they will descend to Earth and burn up, leaving no debris behind. We are designing our satellites with sustainability in mind, and our first satellite, Reaktor Hello World, was the first satellite to successfully re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, demonstrating our commitment to responsible and safe space operations.

space technology

Technowize: AI innovation has been taking the world by storm but again, we mainly understand it from the perspective of tech companies and generative AI chatbots. What are some ways the company is adopting AI analytics?

Kuva Space has developed an end-to-end technology platform that includes three key technologies: proprietary space technology, patented hyperspectral imaging, and advanced AI. 

AI plays a crucial role in our technology platform. It is involved in all aspects of our operations, from satellite operation and data acquisition design to raw data processing to providing ready-to-use data insights. Our in-house AI platform offers a unique competitive advantage, enabling us to capture high-quality data, efficiently downlink data, and produce industry-specific insights within 1-2 hours of data acquisition. 

Our advanced and robust AI enables a new business model, an affordable subscription-based model insights service. We can process large volumes of spaceborne data to serve global market segments, including finance and insurance, carbon and environment, and safety and security. So, insights such as crop health analysis, yield forecast, harmful algal bloom alerts, blue carbon sequestration verification, and biodiversity monitoring can be offered as a service, not a one-off report or analysis.

For example, the aquaculture carbon credit market is an essential nature-based solution to combat climate change. Kuva Space is developing AI-based models of above- and underwater monitoring of aquaculture vegetation through pilots in Europe and Africa to measure carbon sequestration accurately from, among others, kelp forests and farms. Kuva Space is well-positioned to help blue carbon project owners and credit buyers work with credible and trustworthy blue carbon credits by massively increasing transparency into blue carbon sequestration verification.

To ensure the reliability of our AI and services, we are deploying explainable AI to understand the output of our AI models, avoiding the risk associated with “black box” solutions.

Technowize: Are there any specific trends and predictions you have for space tech over the next five years?

New space companies will shift from providing (raw) data to delivering up-to-date industry-specific insights and applications. This shift is driven by a growing need to distill insights in a timely manner to steer societal, economic, and environmental decisions based on trusted scientific data. The goal is to manage food security, supply chain integrity, and ecological markers effectively. 

As a result, incumbent satellite operators will reconsider their place in the value chain, and analytics providers will have to re-evaluate their value proposition. Selling data and providing analysis using only free data sets will become less profitable. 

As we move to a more insights-driven Earth Observation (EO) model, organizations that have not directly leveraged EO analytical products before will begin to embrace spaceborne solutions to improve productivity, become more sustainable, or build consumer and public trust in actions to combat climate change. The uptake of these solutions will depend on factors such as timeliness, affordability, and actionability, meaning the value the insights bring.