Planet Labs’ Photo CubeSats Released

Planet Labs’ mini photo satellites are now being released from the International Space Station. Four satellites were launched February 11 in what is expected to become a steady stream of miniature satellites ejected from the ISS.

Planet Labs wants to create – essentially – a live view version of Google Earth. Instead of using satellite photos that are weeks, months or even years old, Planet Lab’s low orbit CubeSats – essentially orbiting cellphone cameras – enable daily refreshed images, sometimes just hours old.

They successfully launched two demonstration CubeSats, Dove 1 and Dove 2, in April 2013. Dove 3 and Dove 4 were launched in November 2013.

Flock 1 is their constellation of 28 earth-observing satellites that were delivered to the space station last month. Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus spacecraft hauled 33 tiny CubeSats up to the space station in January for later release.

Flock 1 will orbit about 400 km and provide imagery with a resolution of 3–5 meters. Commercial applications include mapping, real estate and construction, and oil and gas monitoring. For example, Flock 1 can replace the need for flying a helicopter over an oil pipeline to monitor for a leak.

Here’s Chris Boshuizen, founder and CTO of Planet Labs, at Tedx, explaining the company’s 28 Earth imaging spacecraft.

Previously Chris worked on NASA PhoneSats. The Planet Labs swarm should enable applications to use virtually “live” satellite imagery – at affordable costs – rather than satellite imagery that’s months or years old.

In December, 2013, over 90 tiny Cubesats were launched. See: Satellite Swarms Revolutionize Earth Imaging and Orbital Science’s First Resupply Flight Carries Satellite Swarm

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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