3 Comments

Summary:

The “flock” of Doves will be released late this month or in February at the earliest, when they will begin sending back high-quality images of the Earth.

Orbital Antares rocket
photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The Antares rocket that launched today to journey to the International Space Station contained 2,780 pounds of cargo, including food, spare parts and even a colony of ants for a science experiment. It also held the future of Earth imaging: 28 “Dove” satellites the size of shoe boxes that will help San Francisco startup Planet Labs. build a constantly-updating view of our world.

Planet Labs Dove satellites

The “flock,” as Planet Labs calls it, is the largest group of satellites ever deployed. They will send back images of the Earth down to the three to five meter scale, which is close enough to “count trees, but not see people,” co-founder Robbie Schingler told me in July. The images can be bought for a fee to track things like agricultural yield, a cargo ship’s progress across the ocean or even how much deforestation occurs in a country each year.

The satellites will sit on the ISS for the month of January before being deployed. They are expected to begin sending images to Planet Labs headquarters as early as February. They are funded in part by the $52 million in Series B funding the company received last month.

Planet Labs founders Chris Boshuizen, Will Marshall and Robbie Schingler in their SoMA office. Photo by Signe Brewster.

Planet Labs founders Chris Boshuizen, Will Marshall and Robbie Schingler in their SoMA office. Photo by Signe Brewster.

The Antares rocket is operated by Orbital Sciences Corp., one of two private space companies NASA has tasked with carrying supplies to the ISS. This is the first of eight cargo missions that will carry on through 2016. The rocket that launched today is expected to dock at the ISS Sunday.

  1. Intell Space Flight Friday, January 10, 2014

    The bad news about being deployed from the ISS is that the CubeSats will only be in space for about 6 months before the burn up in the atmosphere. And they will not be able to see any polar regions since their orbits will not go over the poles.

    Share
  2. “The “flock,” as Planet Labs calls it, is the largest group of satellites ever deployed.” What planet are you on? Have you ever heard of the Iridium satellites, perhaps?

    Share
  3. Largest group of *Earth-imaging* satellites ever deployed. But something got lost in translation, I guess…

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post