Author Topic: Planet Labs nano-sat earth imaging satellites  (Read 60573 times)

Offline Jcc

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 941
  • Liked: 246
  • Likes Given: 125
Planet Labs nano-sat earth imaging satellites
« on: 11/12/2013 02:20 am »
Planet Labs is a San Francisco based startup that is about to launch a constellation of nano-sized earth imaging satellites. They are amazingly tiny, (10cm x 10cm x 30cm) of which 2/3 of the volume is the lens for the camera. I met two of the designers at a conference recently, and got some technical details not mentioned in most of the news articles. Some highlights:

- the satellites have no propulsion, just a reaction wheel to adjust the attitude
- they use a magnetic compass and a "simple" star tracker to determine the correct attitude
- they will be launched from the ISS, so will follow a similar orbit and only cover the portion of the earth overflown by the ISS ( the great majority of the populated regions)
- they will be constantly collecting imagery, and download when passing over a receiving station
- some of the receiving station owners have agreed to barter the download capability in exchange for imagery.
- the imagers are simple Bayer pattern CCDs, capturing frame images at fixed time intervals.
- they plan to georeference and mosaic the imagery on the Amazon cloud.
- they have already launched 2 prototypes, one on the Antares first launch (that was in a low orbit and has already reentered). The other was launched from Baikonur on one of the Russian launchers, that is still in orbit and functioning
- the first operational constellation is planned to launch on Orb-1 to the ISS in December (28 satellites).

Ref:
http://planet-labs.com/
http://www.space.com/22622-planet-labs-dove-satellite-photos.html

Offline Danderman

  • Extreme Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9646
  • Liked: 375
  • Likes Given: 465
Re: Planet Labs nano-sat earth imaging satellites
« Reply #1 on: 11/13/2013 01:29 pm »
I have got some confirmations and clarifications from the GAUSS UniSat-5 team:

Four Cubesats (PUCPSAT, I-CUBE 1, HUMSAT-D, Dove-4) and four PocketQubeSats (BeakerSat, QBScout, WREN and $50Sat) are on board of UniSat-5

I believe that Dove-4 is a Planet Labs payload.

Offline jongoff

  • Recovering Rocket Plumber/Space Entrepreneur
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6262
  • Lafayette/Broomfield, CO
  • Liked: 2430
  • Likes Given: 806
Re: Planet Labs nano-sat earth imaging satellites
« Reply #2 on: 12/18/2013 02:36 pm »
Looks like Planetlabs just closed a $52M Series B financing round:
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2013/12/18/planet-labs-raises-52-million-series-financing/

Add that to their existing ~$20M round, and they're closing in on the $100M SkyBox has raised to-date. I think their next 28 satellites are being launched on this next Cygnus flight, and will be deployed via the NanoRacks JEM RMS launcher (can't remember the exact name for it right now).

~Jon

Offline Danderman

  • Extreme Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9646
  • Liked: 375
  • Likes Given: 465
Re: Planet Labs nano-sat earth imaging satellites
« Reply #3 on: 12/18/2013 06:21 pm »
Looks like Planetlabs just closed a $52M Series B financing round:
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2013/12/18/planet-labs-raises-52-million-series-financing/

Add that to their existing ~$20M round, and they're closing in on the $100M SkyBox has raised to-date. I think their next 28 satellites are being launched on this next Cygnus flight, and will be deployed via the NanoRacks JEM RMS launcher (can't remember the exact name for it right now).

~Jon

Yep. The 28 Planet Labs CubeSATs are part of the 95 kg late load cargo that is now being removed from Antares.

Offline pericynthion

  • GNC / Comms Engineer
  • Full Member
  • **
  • Posts: 289
  • Liked: 425
  • Likes Given: 167
Re: Planet Labs nano-sat earth imaging satellites
« Reply #4 on: 12/18/2013 06:24 pm »
Yep. The 28 Planet Labs CubeSATs are part of the 95 kg late load cargo that is now being removed from Antares.
I believe our Flock is staying on board rather than being offloaded, since it's not perishable and is apparently near the bottom of the stack of cargo.  If you've heard otherwise, I'd be interested in any info.

Offline QuantumG

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8789
  • Australia
  • Liked: 3789
  • Likes Given: 896
Re: Planet Labs nano-sat earth imaging satellites
« Reply #5 on: 12/18/2013 09:32 pm »
Wow, it's so refreshing to see a small space company announcing financing.
Human spaceflight is basically just LARPing now.

Offline Danderman

  • Extreme Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9646
  • Liked: 375
  • Likes Given: 465
Re: Planet Labs nano-sat earth imaging satellites
« Reply #6 on: 12/18/2013 09:35 pm »
Yep. The 28 Planet Labs CubeSATs are part of the 95 kg late load cargo that is now being removed from Antares.
I believe our Flock is staying on board rather than being offloaded, since it's not perishable and is apparently near the bottom of the stack of cargo.  If you've heard otherwise, I'd be interested in any info.

All I have is the statement that the late access cargo was being unloaded.

Offline savuporo

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5155
  • Liked: 987
  • Likes Given: 343
Re: Planet Labs nano-sat earth imaging satellites
« Reply #7 on: 12/19/2013 12:42 am »
70 million for "toys" that can't do "jack squat".

I want to be in toy business
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Offline Lar

  • Fan boy at large
  • Global Moderator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11380
  • Saw Gemini live on TV
  • A large LEGO storage facility ... in Michigan
  • Liked: 8430
  • Likes Given: 6784
Re: Planet Labs nano-sat earth imaging satellites
« Reply #8 on: 12/19/2013 01:51 am »
70 million for "toys" that can't do "jack squat".

I want to be in toy business
What? These sound like rather remarkable devices and if they stay in orbit for very long, they can develop rather detailed images. Not toys at all. 

Further, if these prove out lots of other types of sensors could be fitted and lots of other orbits seeded. We'd hvae a cloud of information gathering devices sending lots of great data down.
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

Offline savuporo

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5155
  • Liked: 987
  • Likes Given: 343
Re: Planet Labs nano-sat earth imaging satellites
« Reply #9 on: 12/19/2013 01:55 am »
Sorry I made a sarcastic reference to another heated thread here - should have linked/clarified.
I personally consider Planet Labs a great breakthrough in space business.
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Offline Lar

  • Fan boy at large
  • Global Moderator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11380
  • Saw Gemini live on TV
  • A large LEGO storage facility ... in Michigan
  • Liked: 8430
  • Likes Given: 6784
Re: Planet Labs nano-sat earth imaging satellites
« Reply #10 on: 12/19/2013 04:37 am »
Ah ok cool, thanks!

It will be interesting to see how far clusters of cheap things can be taken in this realm... in the computer business big racks of commodity hardware so cheap you don't repair, just replace, individual units, have taken everything by storm. Will that idea transfer to data gathering, to communication? We'll see. I'm betting yes.
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

Offline Melt Run

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 143
  • Liked: 1
  • Likes Given: 2
Re: Planet Labs nano-sat earth imaging satellites
« Reply #11 on: 12/21/2013 11:48 am »
Another start up launches small sats is Skybox with sats around the size of a dorm frig.
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/06/startup-skybox/
This video shows the launch on a Russian ICBM
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=jsfL19FV3qg&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DjsfL19FV3qg



Offline baldusi

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7438
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Liked: 1459
  • Likes Given: 4518
Re: Planet Labs nano-sat earth imaging satellites
« Reply #12 on: 12/24/2013 01:11 am »
Capitan Beto and Manolito (CubeBug-1 and CubeBug-2) were made to qualify parts for their own (Satellogic's) microsats.
« Last Edit: 12/26/2013 07:50 pm by baldusi »

Offline pericynthion

  • GNC / Comms Engineer
  • Full Member
  • **
  • Posts: 289
  • Liked: 425
  • Likes Given: 167
Re: Planet Labs nano-sat earth imaging satellites
« Reply #13 on: 12/24/2013 01:49 am »
Capitan Beto and Manolito (CubeBug-1 and CubeBug-2) were made to qualify parts for their microsats.

Hm?  While we wish the CubeBug folks every success, they have no affiliation with Planet Labs.

Offline baldusi

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7438
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Liked: 1459
  • Likes Given: 4518
Re: Planet Labs nano-sat earth imaging satellites
« Reply #14 on: 12/24/2013 02:10 am »
Capitan Beto and Manolito (CubeBug-1 and CubeBug-2) were made to qualify parts for their microsats.

Hm?  While we wish the CubeBug folks every success, they have no affiliation with Planet Labs.
The previous post was about Skybox. So I mentioned the third company based on the same concept. And they are not affiliated but there was a relationship among the three companies.

Offline pericynthion

  • GNC / Comms Engineer
  • Full Member
  • **
  • Posts: 289
  • Liked: 425
  • Likes Given: 167
Re: Planet Labs nano-sat earth imaging satellites
« Reply #15 on: 12/24/2013 03:04 am »
OK, it was the word 'their' that threw me off...

Offline Danderman

  • Extreme Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9646
  • Liked: 375
  • Likes Given: 465
Re: Planet Labs nano-sat earth imaging satellites
« Reply #16 on: 01/09/2014 08:06 pm »
Just to note that 28 of these were carried into orbit today.
« Last Edit: 01/09/2014 08:08 pm by Danderman »

Offline Danderman

  • Extreme Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9646
  • Liked: 375
  • Likes Given: 465
Re: Planet Labs nano-sat earth imaging satellites
« Reply #17 on: 02/07/2014 02:07 pm »
Bay area is the hotbed of Earth observation technology start-ups, generating a new ‘space race’

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/04/photos-bay-area-is-the-hotbed-of-earth-observation-technology-start-ups-generating-a-new-space-race

Three Bay area start-ups are at the forefront of the new ‘space race,’ the charge to completely change the way we can observe Earth and the global processes and forces at work. Companies like UrtheCast, Planet Labs and Skybox Imaging produce small, relatively inexpensive satellites and high-resolution cameras capable of streaming video and still pictures back to Earth which can be downloaded, observed and analyzed in real-time. These video and photographic products allow the observation of environmental and humanitarian programs as make it possible for corporate ‘big data’ customers, such as ‘big-box’ retailers who might use the video streams, for instance, to detect the high and low traffic patterns into and out of their properties


Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11601
  • Liked: 3152
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: Planet Labs nano-sat earth imaging satellites
« Reply #18 on: 02/07/2014 08:31 pm »
Bay area is the hotbed of Earth observation technology start-ups, generating a new ‘space race’

and high-resolution cameras

This term gets thrown around a lot without much definition. For the military, "high resolution" means about 0.1 meter ground resolution. For commercial imaging, it generally means better than 1 meter ground resolution (and in common usage probably means better than 0.5 meter ground resolution).

Offline Danderman

  • Extreme Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9646
  • Liked: 375
  • Likes Given: 465
Re: Planet Labs nano-sat earth imaging satellites
« Reply #19 on: 02/09/2014 02:38 pm »
Bay area is the hotbed of Earth observation technology start-ups, generating a new ‘space race’

and high-resolution cameras

This term gets thrown around a lot without much definition. For the military, "high resolution" means about 0.1 meter ground resolution. For commercial imaging, it generally means better than 1 meter ground resolution (and in common usage probably means better than 0.5 meter ground resolution).


Skybox Imaging, one of the three companies mentioned in the article, provides "sub-meter" resolution imagery.

Tags: