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PSLV launch
India’s PSLV rocket lifts off to send 31 satellites into orbit. (ISRO Video)

The first Earth observation satellite for Seattle-based BlackSky’s Global constellation has been sent into orbit aboard an Indian rocket.

Global-1 was just one of 30 secondary payloads for the PSLV-C43 mission, launched at 9:57 a.m. local time Thursday (8:27 p.m. PT Wednesday) from the Indian Space Research Organization’s Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota. All those satellites went into a sun-synchronous, nearly pole-to-pole orbit at an altitude of 504 kilometers (313 miles).

The primary payload aboard the four-stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle was India’s Hyper Spectral Imaging Satellite, or HySIS, which is designed to capture Earth imagery in visible, near infrared and shortwave infrared wavelengths from a height of 636 kilometers (395 miles). Potential applications range from weather and climate research to agriculture monitoring and water management.

BlackSky, a subsidiary of Seattle’s Spaceflight Industries, has a similar purpose in mind for Global-1. Once it’s up and running, the satellite should be capable of sending down on-demand multispectral images for near-real-time applications. BlackSky already has its prototype Pathfinder-1 satellite in orbit, but Global-1 should provide imagery with 1-meter as opposed to 2-meter resolution with quicker response time.

Global-1’s launch was facilitated by Spaceflight Industries’ payload logistics subsidiary, Spaceflight, which also played a role in getting satellites aboard PSLV-C43 for Harris Corp., Spire Global and Australia’s Fleet Space Technologies.

“This is Spaceflight’s seventh launch with PSLV, and following this mission, we will have sent 66 spacecraft to orbit aboard PSLV rockets,” Curt Blake, president of Spaceflight, said in a pre-launch news release. “We value our partnership with such a reliable launch vehicle provider.”

PSLV-C43 also carried 16 Earth observation satellites for Planet’s Dove constellation, plus spacecraft for GeoOptics, Canada’s Kepler Communications, Finland’s Reaktor Space Labs, Colombia’s Fuerza Aérea Colombiana and the Netherlands’ Hiber Global. Malaysia’s InnoSat-2 and Spain’s 3Cat-1 rounded out the list of secondary payloads.

Within two hours after launch, all 31 satellites were successfully deployed in orbit, with Global-1 the last to go. “Finally home!” the Indian Space Research Organization tweeted.

Hours later, BlackSky reported via Twitter that “we made contact with Global-1 after its successful launch and data is flowing.”

The second satellite of BlackSky’s low-Earth-orbit constellation, Global-2, is waiting for launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that’s due for liftoff from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base no earlier than Dec. 2. Spaceflight is handling the logistics for all of the more than 60 payloads on that SpaceX dedicated rideshare mission, which is known as SSO-A: SmallSat Express.

Over the next couple of years, BlackSky plans to beef up its constellation with more Global satellites, including 20 to be built by LeoStella, a Tukwila, Wash.-based joint venture backed by Spaceflight Industries and Europe’s Thales Alenia Space. That array of satellites is expected to generate the revenue needed to expand the constellation to 60 satellites.

Update for 9:30 a.m. PT Nov. 29: We’ve updated this report with word that BlackSky is in contact with Global-1.

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