Military Embedded Systems

"Cybersecure" satellites using AI to power new Leonardo project for Italy


February 20, 2024

Lisa Daigle

Assistant Managing Editor

Military Embedded Systems

Graphic courtesy Leonardo

ROME. Aerospace and defense firm Leonardo has accepted a project from the Italian Ministry of Defense (through the contractual agency Teledife) that intends to use supercomputers, artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), and cloud computing aboard a constellation of what it calls "cybersecure" satellites orbiting the earth. 

As part of the "Military Space Cloud Architecture" (MILSCA) study project -- under the Italian defense ministry as part of its National Military Research Plan (PNRM) -- the team aims to define a space architecture capable of providing government and the Italian military with high-performance computing and storage capacity directly in space.

When operational, the Space Cloud will be able to store over 100 Terabytes of data generated on Earth and in space onboard each constellation satellite, processing data at a speed/power of more than 250 TFLOPS (250 trillion operations per second) at single precision, using advanced algorithms that employ AI/ML and extensive data analysis. It will also be able to communicate and exchange data autonomously with other satellites.

Leonardo will use its davinci-1 supercomputer, leading the project in its roles in the joint ventures Telespazio (67% Leonardo, 33% Thales) and Thales Alenia Space (67% Thales, 33% Leonardo); it is expected to take 24 months. The initial phase will consist of defining the architecture, while the second phase will end with developing a digital twin of the satellite with the high-performance computer and the multiconstellation satellite terminal demonstrator.

The project will lead into a further experimental phase, which, if confirmed, will involve the deployment in orbit of a demonstrative constellation of satellites.

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