Project summary – KvarkenSpaceEco (9/2019–06/2022)

 

The “Kvarken Space Eco” project will implement a long-lasting regional economic development structure for space-based business and innovation, i.e. a Kvarken Space Center. The planned center’s primary objective is to support regional businesses to develop opportunities within the “new space economy” and commercialise existing space-based data. Factors have developed in the space industry that allow much less expensive processes to be implemented in space relative to the past. To aid the region in taking a stake in these new economic activities as well as available data and services, the center will assure that an understanding of the latest technologies is available, along with the capacity to implement them. The center will share knowledge and implement demonstration projects to bring the regional businesses to the level needed to independently manage their own space business activities. The center will work closely with regional education systems and development companies and will promote the necessary themes to build and sustain a workforce capable of advancing regional participation and value-creation in new space. In doing so, we will help provide the Kvarken region with options to actively participate in the developing space-based digital economy and create new business as well as make a global impact together.

Kvarken Area, distances and population. (c) Kvarken Council

 

Project Goals

 
  • An innovation ecosystem for regional new space activities will be developed and characterized during the process of developing our Kvarken Space Center. The center’s development activities will be guided by the processes associated with the ecosystem characterization.
  • The center will work to identify and share a common vision for regional participation in the “new space economy” (NSE). The center will engage local society, elevating their interest and understanding of “new space” processes and will also work to engage also students at all levels. Companies and organizations will be engaged to identify aspects of the NSE, which warrant near- and long-term consideration for specific regional development support by the center.
  • The center will develop regional capacity to assure that state-of-the-art technologies are understood and available to regional actors. During the three-year BA project funding, the center will carry out demonstration projects alongside local businesses to demonstrate specifically how to implement and take advantage of new space projects. The center will assist local businesses as they develop space projects. Processes associated with advancing these digital economy efforts will be supported in education programs within local universities to assure the new space industry operates locally and serves the regions’ other industries.
  •  This center will bring existing information-based technologies and know-how to the region to benefit businesses, governmental associations and society by using currently available European Commission, European Space Agency (ESA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic, Atmospheric Administration (NOOA), Iceye and planet.com data products, among others. Use and manipulation of open and commercial space-based observations and derived products will be demonstrated for regional businesses, society and governmental associations to supplement existing or for developing new processes.
  • Algorithms to create new information content from the space-based data will be developed and shared as part of this activity. A digital platform for collecting, processing and distributing such data will be developed and occupy a key role in the center’s activities.
  • The cooperative Finland-Sweden initiative is an optimal combination and opportunity to advance “new space” economy processes jointly. The strengths of both countries turn the established center into an internationally relevant new space economy hub.
  • After the project ends, the consortium will have established a non-profit association to carry forward the center’s activities focusing in new space economy for the long-term and will make
    a global impact. 
 

Project Motivation

 
 Space has become an essential part of our daily lives. For example, data communications solutions, transport, weather forecasting and agriculture and forestry are highly dependent on the resources offered by satellites. “New space” offers the possibility of using satellite platforms for new economically driven activities. In contrast to “old space” it is by magnitude less costly because of advances in micro-electronic and communication technologies and standardization procedures.
Private sector involvement (entrepreneurship) is a key factor along with risk-taking (i.e., not over-engineering space systems). Old space got stuck in a vicious cycle: the space sector is indeed expensive, therefore systems cannot fail and must be built following strict space standards, using proved space system and implementing redundancy. This in turn makes the space systems even more expensive and, in addition, hinders utilization of latest technologies. New space, on the other hand, accepts systems failing every now and then, and follows the “fly early and fly often” philosophy in order to spur innovation. A service industry for new space applications is developing rapidly and now it is feasible to implement specific space-based systems for business and societal purposes by relying on this service industry. Doing this earlier (during “old space”) was basically not possible because of the extremely high costs. In a 2018 report from the Finnish ministries of Economic affairs and Transport & Communication, the new space economy will change the whole space business. All the opportunities in New Space are illustrated in the figure below.
Opportunities in New Space Economy
Our BA (Botnia-Atlantica) region can benefit by being an early participant in this new space economy. Because of the developing new space service industry, the region’s academic strengths in space, economic as well as digital and energy technologies, the base capacity exists to take these new economic steps and embark on a new product and service sector. The proposed center will work to develop any remaining capacity requirements and focus to bring the region’s businesses/industries through their first steps into new space applications, services and data utilization.
 
 The processes created by early new space applications are building the future infrastructure for global internet of things (IoT), global communications, utilization of artificial intelligence (AI) for satellite image processing and digital technology advances. The center will build local capacity and assist local industries and organizations to benefit from using these technologies for their business purposes – generating economic growth via new revenue streams.

Demonstration Cases

 
The project will deliver two demonstration cases besides the Kvarken Space Center related activity.

Ground Station and Webportal:

The primary goal of the ground station is to communicate with the spacecrafts and satellites passing the region. The main interaction with the satellite contains transmitting control commands to the satellites and receiving back satellite data. Hence, the ground station plays an important role in any satellite related operations. A functional “communications ground station” in Vaasa for bi-directional data-flow with cube-satellites and Earth Observation satellite and a related webportal for disseminating the received data is on the agenda in this project. This station will permit the center to develop the capacities associated with hardware and software development, data integration and management techniques associated with satellite communications and operations as well as the data dissemination. This demonstration case will permit the hands-on experience to capably demonstrate to others in the region how to communicate with satellite systems should their business or industry have interest to do so. The implementation of the ground station is basically a software project with a radio antenna receiving all the passing satellites over the Kvarken region and putting in place a database and distribution channel to disseminate the received Kvarken-specific data to the center stakeholders online, benefiting to all endeavours in the region with earth observation and remote sensing dimensions.
 
 
Preliminary testing with temporary setup before the project start

Cubesat Mission Kvarkensat

The center will work with regional industries and organizations and develop a low-cost demonstration satellite mission concept called KvarkenSat. The center will demonstrate the mission end-to-end processes while sharing progress systematically with industry and organization members. A large part of the development and launching of the spacecraft can be subcontracted, the proposed innovation center intends to handle the surface based process of communicating with and controlling the spacecraft and collecting as well as managing the streaming data products derived from the satellite mission. The payload of the spacecraft will however be designed within the center and with specific requirements to serve the Kvarken area in particular. This process gives the investing region full access to the information gained and permits unlimited exploitation of the information and communications process for business development purposes, including statistical learning research, software engineering and data visualization techniques. The launch process for the cubesat is envisioned to be accomplished at the Esrange Space Center in Kiruna, Sweden, by the Swedish Space Corporation, as they are currently working to develop such launch capabilities for earliest 2022, and be one of the first missions to gain access to space from northern Sweden. This activity will likely extend beyond the period of the requested BA funding and will strengthen the viability of the planned longer-term association “Kvarken Space Center”. The KvarkenSat is envisioned to be similar to the Aalto-1 student satellite shown in Figure 4, but with a Kvarken region industry defined payload and mission.
CubeSat Aalto-1 on display at Finnish Satellite Workshop 2019, Finland - similar to the planned KvarkenSat Cubesat

Work packages and tasks

The project is divided to 7 work packages.
 

Work package 1: Kvarken New Space innovation ecosystem

Work package leader

Umea University

Contributors:
Umeå University, Hanken School of Economics, University of Vaasa, MUOVA at VAMK University of Applied Sciences, Novia UAS

Tasks

            1. Identify and map the existing potential and future opportunities of New Space Economy in the Kvarken Region
            2. Innovation and business development of New Space in the Kvarken region

Contact:

Tomas Blomquist (Professor) School of Business, Economics and Statistics, Umeå University

firstname.lastname@umu.se

 

 

Work package 2: Leveraging value from existing space-based observations

Work package leader

Novia University of Applied Sciences

Contributors:
Novia UAS, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, University of Vaasa, Åbo Akademi University, Aalto University

Tasks

                  1. Development of a digital platform/portal
                  2. Sharing of existing geospatial data, tools and algorithms

Contact:

Kendall Rutledge (Project Manager), Novia UAS

firstname.lastname@novia.fi

 

 

Work package 3: Space technology for innovative services in the Kvarken region – center study cases

Work package leader

Luleå University of Technology

Contributors:
Luleå University of Technology, Aalto University, University of Vaasa, Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Novia UAS

Tasks

                  1. Inventory of possible payloads
                  2. Payload feasibility study
                  3. Regional payload implementation plan
                  4. Payload prototyping
                  5. Launch and operation preparation of KvarkenSat
                  6. Preparation for KvarkenSat handover

Contact:

Olle Nordberg (Operational Manager, Deputy Vice-Chancellor) Space Technology, Luleå University of Technology

firstname.lastname@ltu.se

 

 

Work package 4: Societal impact: Kvarken capacity building, opportunity generation and networking

Work package leader

University of Vaasa

Contributors:

Luleå University of Technology, Aalto University, University of Vaasa, Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Novia UAS

Tasks

                  1. Educating and involving companies concerning space-based data and about the opportunites
                  2. NASA Space Apps hackathons
                  3. KvarkenSat Innovation Challenge for Sustainability
                  4. “Go to Space”: student involvement and younger generation inspiration

Contact:

Heidi Kuusniemi (Director, Prof.) Digital Economy, University of Vaasa

firstname.lastname@univaasa.fi

 

 

Work package 5: Communication and dissemination

Work package leader

University of Vaasa

Contributors:

All

Tasks

                    1. Creating a communication and dissemination plan
                    2. Website

Contact:

Heidi Kuusniemi (Director, Prof.) Digital Economy, University of Vaasa

firstname.lastname@univaasa.fi

 

 

Work Package 6: Center management

Work package leader

Contributors:

All

Tasks

                    1. Management and coordination
                    2. Satus reporting and coordinating the external auditing
                    3. Center steering group meetings and advisory activities
                    4. Implementing gender quality and equal opportunities throughout the project

Contact:

Heidi Kuusniemi (Director, Prof.) Digital Economy, University of Vaasa

firstname.lastname@univaasa.fi

 

 

Work Package 7: Continuation of Kvarken Space Center innovation ecosystem

Work package leader

University of Vaasa

Tasks

                  1. Creating the long-term infrastructure and the network of the “Kvarken Space Center”
                  2. Web portal continuation
                  3. International connections in the long term

Contact:

Heidi Kuusniemi (Director, Prof.) Digital Economy, University of Vaasa

firstname.lastname@univaasa.fi