Skudo is thrilled to announce a new technology demonstration that will securely transmit enhanced imagery of Earth from space. In partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA), we will upload an innovative hardware security module (HSM) implemented in Verilog code to the OPS-SAT satellite currently in orbit. This groundbreaking HSM module leverages a separate RISC-V processor core to locally enhance images before encrypting them for transmission using the digital certificate of the intended receiver on Earth.
OPS-SAT will use its onboard camera to capture stunning views of Earth as it orbits from around 500 km above us. Our custom HSM built into the satellite’s reprogrammable FPGA is implemented in Verilog. A distinct RISC-V IP core is also embedded in the FPGA and executes image processing algorithms completely separately from the HSM. This allows OPS-SAT to enhance photographs in real-time using advanced edge computing capabilities on the RISC-V processor. For example, cloud formations over oceans and continents can be highlighted in bright yellow by the RISC-V core to make them vividly stand out. At the same time, the original raw images are preserved.
Having both our Verilog HSM and separate RISC-V processor for edge computing embedded within OPS-SAT’s FPGA provides numerous benefits. Performing encryption and image enhancement entirely on-board reduces security risks, as the enhanced imagery can be immediately encrypted before transmission. Combining critical functions in one FPGA also allows for a more compact, lower power design with fewer components than separating them. And edge computing on the RISC-V core enables real-time image processing not possible by sending data down to Earth. Together, this demonstrates the versatility of modern FPGA systems-on-chip and their ability to securely enable advanced edge analytics. This integrated approach represents a major advantage of our design tailored to the unique needs of space missions.
Both the enhanced and original photos are then encrypted by our Verilog HSM using standard and well-proven technologies such as AES-GCM before transmission to our ground station. This protects the invaluable imagery as it travels from space to Earth. The encryption keys are tied to digital certificates associated with specific user accounts on the ground. This ensures only approved receivers with matching certificates can decrypt the imagery once received.