How do you decide when to water your yard? Maybe you do every day, no matter what, or maybe you have a moisture sensor buried in the ground that controls your sprinklers. Or maybe you simply look outside. Satellogic CEO Emiliano Kargieman thinks that in just a few years, satellite data will be cheap and accessible enough to give you the same information.
His startup has already launched three small test satellites, and has hundreds more planned for the next six years. The first commercially available satellite will go up next year. Together, the satellites are expected to be able to deliver a live video stream and constant pictures of the Earth. And anyone will be able to purchase access.
He likened it to wearable devices, which can tell their user how many steps they took in a day or how well they slept.
“I think we need to do the same thing for the planet,” Kargieman said. “It’s about time that we create the capability that allows us to monitor the health of our planet on a daily basis, that allows us to put numbers to the things we discuss … global warming and what’s going on with the ice caps.”
Satellogic’s satellites weigh less than 100 pounds–a fraction of the thousands of pounds classic government and industry satellites generally weigh. The smaller size is being utilized by other space startups like Planet Labs and Nanosatisfi, all of which have chosen to utilize fleets of cheaper satellites in place of one large unit.
Large satellites used to be necessary because you couldn’t pack enough equipment into a machine the size of a shoebox to capture crisp images of the Earth, among other sensing data. But technology miniaturization driven by mobile phone adoption has now made that possible. The quality the small satellites can provide is still chasing that of their larger relatives, but you can get a very respectable image off of a small satellite. Providing live-streaming video is totally unheard of, especially at a low cost.
If Satellogic accomplishes its goal, Kargieman said satellites will no longer be used only to gauge water supply levels and populate Google Earth. Suddenly, it will be inexpensive enough to make personal decisions or play games based on space-based data.
“My vision and my goal is to be able to democratize access to space based data,” Kargieman said. “Our goal is to make it such that this information can start to be used in a daily basis for decision making.”