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Blacksky and the Importance of AI in New Space

BlackSky is doing some interesting work in the AI space:

BlackSky, a supplier of satellite imagery and space-based intelligence, won a $2 million U.S. defense contract to provide data to train AI models.

The contract was awarded by the defense contractor Axient on behalf of the Air Force Research Laboratory. Axient in September 2023 won a contract from AFRL worth up to $25 million for space experiments.

Axient will use BlackSky’s satellite imagery and data analytics platform to support studies and technology demonstrations focused on tracking moving objects from space.

As someone who works on AI solutions professionally, I’m a little surprised that there isn’t more discussion about the immense value and potential of space data and AI. The value is pretty well understood with constellation builders and in the intelligence sector but less so with the general public, the broader commercial sector, and on Wall Street. Companies like Blacksky, Spire Global, and other LEO operators are generating vast libraries of data that, when made available to AI for training or analysis, will drive countless impactful applications. There is currently a lot of focus on real-time or fresh data but for many applications the value of these libraries grows significantly as they age and scale.

Low-cost sensor platforms and launch have fueled the rise of New Space but the convergence of AI and these capabilities is the key to unlocking hugely profitable markets that will cement space as a significant and permanent pillar of the economy - one that is visible and top of mind for the general consumer. I expect this realization to sink in within the next couple of years, or sooner, if someone like OpenAI makes a high profile move in this space (which I am also expecting) much like they did recently with robotics.