MUCH OF THE information that is beamed back from space is useless. Pictures taken by satellites orbiting the Earth might take days to download, only to show lots of cloud obscuring the area of interest. The subject matter may also be surrounded by irrelevant information. All this uses up a lot of valuable bandwidth.
Processing data in space, before transmission, would reduce clutter, but this can be tricky. Cosmic rays randomly flip the ones and zeroes that computers operate on, introducing unpredictable errors. High levels of radiation can also damage electronic circuits. KP Labs, based in Gliwice, Poland, is building a satellite to overcome some of these problems. Their device, called Intuition-1, is controlled by a neural network, a form of artificial intelligence modelled on the human brain. The satellite is what is known in the trade as a 6U CubeSat, which means it is composed of six standard-sized 10x10x11.5cm modules.
Intuition-1 will be equipped with a hyperspectral imager, which takes 150 pictures of every scene it looks at. Each picture is at a different spectral frequency, so contains different information. The neural network stitches these together using powerful graphics chips hardened against radiation. The developers have also built error correction into their software.
Intuition-1 will view a 15km...