SF Company To Launch Ring Of Satellites For Near Real-Time Imagery

For anyone who has perused the internet looking at satellite imagery of various locations on the planet, you know that the high-resolution pictures can be incredible. One problem is that they can be years old at times. A small SF start-up aims to change that.

A San Francisco based company called Planet Labs has announced plans to launch twenty eight small satellites into orbit, in a ring around Earth, that will take frequent snapshots of the planet to give users access to satellite imagery at a near real-time rate.

With that quick turnaround time, online maps could be updated more frequently, and environmental organizations could gain unprecedented monitoring capability. "We can track deforestation or the ice caps melting," says Will Marshall, another company founder and a former NASA scientist. "What we're trying to do is monitor the planet on a really regular basis so people can help take care of it in a sustainable way."

Each satellite will utilize several CubeSats, small standardized boxes, that will be outfitted with the required camera equipment. The imagery data will be taken in a moderate resolution to enable more data to be transmitted back to the ground stations in less time. The company states that the satellites, which have no propulsion system, should be able to maintain orbit for two to five years before losing speed and falling back to earth.