Steve Wozniak's startup wants to 'ride share' satellite data

Steve Wozniak and his space startup Privateer are looking to democratize access to satellite data like images in a similar fashion to Uber's "pool ride-sharing."
Christopher McFadden
Privateer Pono.
Privateer Pono.


Space company Privateer, an Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak startup, wants to bring satellite access to the masses with a new initiative. The idea is to enable mass access to satellite data beyond the currently exclusive access afforded to governments and private companies. In this sense, Wozniak hopes people will be able to sort "rideshare" data like images to lower the cost per individual. As Gizmodo points out, this could reduce the cost of an image tenfold from $500 to around $50 per person.

Satellite rideshare

This service would be supplied using a special marketplace for users to search for desired data. When one or more customers are matched using the app's sophisticated algorithms, they can share the cost for access to said data. To do this, Privateer will utilize software tools, including artificial intelligence learning, to aid satellite operators in delivering "optimal regional data" to their clients. Additionally, the company has introduced Pono, a payload satellite attachment that enhances the data processing capabilities of satellites.

Satellite operators will no longer have to download data and perform their computations. Pono can access and process data while still in orbit. Privateer plans to launch the Pono satellite attachment on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in December of this year, with another prototype in development for a hopeful launch next year. The goal is for Pono to be fully operational by 2025, Bloomberg reports.

“With Wayfinder as the guide and Pono as the engine, Privateer is linking ‘for space’ and ‘from space,’ data drivers and data users, Silicon Valley and space, and economics and sustainability in the orbital environment,” Privateer CEO Alex Fielding said in a company blog post. “This is about refining and redefining how we, as a society, can maximize the life and utility of our satellites to enable new applications … while standardizing norms of behavior in space," he added.

A Privateer spokesperson, Beau Holder, told Gizmodo that Privateer will be using its satellite tracking app, Wayfinder, as the platform for its marketplace. Wayfinder currently tracks space objects and analyzes potential collisions. The marketplace will be available to Privateer's end users, including Global 2K, commercial companies, developers, and researchers.

Low-cost satellite data

Privateer has expressed its hope of implementing a marketplace system to reduce the number of single-use satellites launched into orbit. Wozniak likened this approach to Uber pool rideshare, which was short-lived.

”Building a data ride-sharing economy in and from space, paired with our on-orbit AI, enables Privateer to give away the safety, sustainability, and optimization technology that helps earn satellite operators more customers while giving a global user base a way to access space that traditionally has been reserved for large governments only,” Wozniak said in the blog post. “This is similar to when GPS technology became available to the masses, and we expect it to have a similar impact," he added.

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