THE BIG BET: AI FOR SPACE SYSTEMS.

Author:Niewood, Eliahu
Position:MITRE Corp.

The nature of research and development has changed fundamentally over recent decades. One of the most challenging changes from a national security perspective has been the shift from a predominantly government-funded and owned research environment to an ever-increasing preponderance of commercial funding.

This shift means that the U.S. national security enterprise must be able to quickly leverage emerging technology to maintain the technological military advantage we have enjoyed over the last 70 years. Unfortunately, today our potential adversaries have shown themselves more agile in taking technology and fielding new systems based on it. The MITRE Corp. is committed to reversing this troubling trend.

One area where there is a clear need for leveraging emerging technology is in the new model for space systems pioneered by the commercial sector. Today, Planet, a small company, operates roughly 200 satellites that image the entire land mass of the Earth every day. Another company, DigitalGlobe, has a Worldview-03 spectral system, for example, which can be used to detect and identify materials based on their spectral properties.

SpaceX is developing launch vehicles that are dramatically changing the cost to orbit and a variety of companies are exploring options for cheaper launch of small payloads. SpaceX and OneWeb are planning very large constellations to provide high bandwidth communications around the globe. Another rapidly evolving technology area is artificial intelligence, particularly in the fields of deep learning and human language technology.

These technologies are becoming ever more prevalent in consumer products, from self-driving cars to home control systems. In both cases, though the U.S. national security enterprise has recognized the allure of these technologies, it has not been able to adopt them at any scale to address critical defense mission challenges.

MITRE is making significant internal investments to address this gap. It has identified, in...

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