Last week we had a look at UrtheCast, a satellite imaging company that has just released their first videos captured from the International Space Station.
Today we are looking at another satellite imaging company called BlackSky Global. They have not yet launched any satellites, but plan to launch six satellites in 2016 and have a 60 satellite constellation by 2019. For more details see their press release.
They are not the first company to plan a large constellation of imaging satellites. Last year we talked about a company called Satellite which had very similar plans and launched their first satellite in June 2014. However, there is no sign of any progress from them since then. Skybox Imaging, which is owned by Google, also plans a large fleet and already have two operational satellites.
Most of the above companies have or are planning relatively cheap satellites with a resolution of about 1m and focusing their marketing message on their ability to capture frequent images. Google Earth gets most of its imagery from DigitalGlobe, whose best resolution satellite WorldView-3 has a resolution of 31cm. Google also gets some imagery from Airbus Defence and Space (listed as CNES/Astrium in the copyright information). However, their best satellites seem to be SPOT 6 and 7, with a resolution of 1.5m.
The global image used in Google Earth when zoomed out comes from Landsat 8, which has a resolution of 15m.
The best resolution imagery in Google Earth is aerial imagery. However, many parts of the world only have satellite imagery, and even areas with aerial imagery usually do not have frequent updates and could benefit from a greater availability of satellite imagery. We have been hoping to see Skybox imagery in Google Earth but are not aware of any being featured so far.
With the addition of BlackSky Global, the future of satellite imaging looks good.
BlackSky’s Pathfinder spacecraft, one of its first satellites.