BELLEVUE, Wash. – Planet has landed … in the Seattle area.
The upstart satellite imaging company formerly known as Planet Labs has moved into a 3,000-square-foot office in Bellevue’s Northup North Office Park, and plans to have 10 software engineers working there by the end of the year.
Two engineers were hired for the office as of this week, when GeekWire paid a visit. That’s not counting Karthik Govindhasamy, a former Microsoft and Nokia engineer who is now Planet’s chief technology officer and executive vice president of engineering.
Govindhasamy is in charge of the Bellevue office, and he’s happy to be part of the Seattle area’s growing space community.
“We wanted to be close to the ecosystem,” Govindhasamy said. “SpaceX is nearby. Microsoft is in the neighborhood.”
Planet’s headquarters is in San Francisco, but it also has offices in Germany, Canada and the Netherlands. The six-year-old startup’s current workforce amounts to more than 360 employees. Its total equity funding is nearing the $200 million mark.
In less than three years, Planet has had more than 140 of its Dove nanosatellites sent into orbit, and 60 of those are currently operational, Govindhasamy said. The Doves are typically deployed either from India’s PSLV launch vehicle or from the International Space Station’s CubeSat launcher.
The work being done at the Bellevue office focuses on what happens next.
“Our platform is unprecedented,” Govindhasamy said. “We are collecting an average of 50 million square kilometers [of Earth imagery] a day, and publishing more than 20 million square kilometers a day. That’s about one-third of the entire land mass, and our goal is to get the entire land mass every day. That’s a huge amount of data.”
Such imagery can be a precious resource for tracking crop production and other economic activities, monitoring urban development and environmental changes, or responding to disasters.
But processing and distributing all that imagery requires a robust data platform – and building out that platform requires software engineers who know their way around cloud computing, service-oriented architecture and data analytics.
Those are just the kinds of folks that the Seattle area is known for.
“We’re going to start out with software development here, but I can see the future opportunities for different areas,” Govindhasamy said.
Seattle and its environs already have their share of satellite data operations:
- SpaceX set up its office in Redmond to work on what’s expected to become a 4,425-satellite network for global internet services.
- Planetary Resources set up shop in the same neighborhood to work on its Ceres constellation of Earth-observing satellites, with an eye toward transitioning into asteroid mining.
- Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries and its BlackSky subsidiary are getting started on their own constellation for near-real-time satellite imagery. (Spaceflight also arranged for the launch of 12 Planet Dove satellites in June)
To get the talent they’re looking for, Govindhasamy and his teammates will have to compete with those ventures – plus other Seattle aerospace companies such as Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing, Blue Origin, Tethers Unlimited and Vulcan Aerospace, plus the usual suspects at Amazon and Microsoft.
Govindhasamy can’t wait.
“Like I said, we are happy to join the ecosystem and use the talent pool,” he said. “There are great universities here, great tech companies, great space companies. … We believe this is going to be a unique situation for candidates who’d like to pursue this challenging technology that we are building.”