Satellogic: Bringing Space Down To Earth

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Elon Musk’s private space flight company SpaceX is not the only company with its sights set on space. The current revolution in space technology development is increasingly driven by startups. One such company is Satellogic, an Argentinean startup that is working hard to bring space down to earth so that we can better understand our planet.

Satellogic has plans to democratise global access to space based services by reducing current barriers to accessing satellite data in real time. It is hoped that this will launch a new era of planetary awareness and transform existing approaches to global problems by creating a constellation of nano-satellites that can deliver commercial grade imaging and data at a tiny fraction of the present cost.

Constellation of Satellites

The vision that Satellogic has involves deploying a network of compact, cost-effective satellites with the capacity to image any spot on earth every few minutes. These units incorporate the latest technology and are the size of “a desktop computer hard drive”, according to founder and CEO Emiliano Kargieman. It is estimated that it currently takes up to three days to take two consecutive photos of the same spot on the planet. This network, which will consist of up to 300 satellites talking to each other in low earth orbit, will then be used to stream unprecedented real time data regarding the planet. It is envisaged that this will include social conflict, natural disasters, commercial and shipping activity and various planetary health metrics. This is seen as having the potential to revolutionise the way that decisions are currently made at all levels – governments, businesses, NGO’s and individuals.

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The possible applications for this technology are almost limitless. A central aim is to help better address the management and distribution of scarce natural resources. Areas of interest that have already been identified include:

– Agriculture – Food Production & Security –  Energy Production & Pipeline Monitoring
–  Disaster Response –  Illegal Logging
–  Border Patrol –  Port Security
–  Critical Infrastructure Monitoring –  Business Intelligence

After originally planning to provide image resolution at a level of sub two metres, customer feedback resulted in Satellogic increasing the resolution to one metre. For those concerned about privacy, it is understood that the satellites will have the ability to photograph cars, but not individual license plates.

Making Progress

In 2013 Satellogic successfully deployed two satellites to help test key components of their proprietary technology. Those first two units – CubeBug1 and CubeBug2 – were followed in the middle of last year by BugSat-1. All three provided invaluable data to the company as it refined its design.

The plan for 2015 includes the launch of the next generation of prototypes. With approximately 15 satellites scheduled to be in orbit by the end of this year, enabling the delivery of the first commercial services, Satellogic’s nano-satellite constellation will be keenly watched.

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