Seattle-based BlackSky says the first two Earth-imaging satellites in its Global constellation are up and running, with the ability to capture 1-meter-resolution views of the same spot on the planet on a frequent basis.
The company provided a demonstration of the high-revisit capability this week at the 35th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs — and said it expected to make imagery from the Global constellation commercially available this spring.
BlackSky’s target for the demonstration was Melbourne, Australia. A sequence of three satellite images shows the waterfront and central business district at different times during the last week of March. One image shows relatively little activity along the Yarra River, but another image reveals several ships in transit.
“These images from Global-1 and Global-2, our first-generation spacecraft, validate our ability to task, capture, and process high-quality images,” Nick Merski, vice president of space operations at BlackSky, said in a news release. “The response from many of our early customers has been extremely positive, and we’re excited to share these images with a wider audience.”
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Global-1 was launched last November by an Indian PSLV rocket, while Global-2 went into orbit less than a week later as one of 64 satellites launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Merski said the satellites’ systems have now been validated, calibrated and tested.
“In addition to these on-orbit milestones, we have fully integrated our constellation with our global intelligence platform, which now puts us on track to deliver unique imaging and analytic solutions to our customers,” BlackSky CEO Brian O’Toole said.
“BlackSky is delivering on the promise of how the economics of high-performance smallsat constellations will enable a new era of global intelligence,” he said. “With these milestones complete, we’re looking forward to commercial availability later this spring.”
Global-3 and Global-4 are due for launch in the coming months, and still more are on the way. The Global satellites are being built at LeoStella’s development facility in Tukwila, Wash. BlackSky is a subsidiary of Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries, while LeoStella is a joint venture involving Spaceflight Industries and Thales Alenia Space.
“With eight satellites on orbit by the end of this year, we expect to deliver more than five revisits a day over many sites of interest,” Merski said. “By 2020, with more than 16 smallsats on orbit, that will double and provide hourly monitoring. That’s a profound transformation for the market.”