Earth observation companies plan new satellites and seek new customers

PARIS — As operators of Earth remark satellites put together to replace their fleets, with an emphasis on each improved decision and revisit time, they disagree on how a lot demand there’s for current and new knowledge.

4 corporations that presently function Earth remark satellites, from high-resolution optical spacecraft to artificial aperture radar (SAR) satellites, mentioned plans to deploy new satellites over the subsequent a number of years to interchange and improve their programs throughout a session at Euroconsult’s World Satellite tv for pc Enterprise Week right here Sept. 12.

Maxar Applied sciences is growing the WorldView Legion system, a set of satellites smaller than its current WorldView satellites however nonetheless capable of present high-resolution photographs. “We’re making a $600 million funding in constructing out a category of belongings that takes benefit of enhancements in electronics, however maintains our optics,” mentioned Tony Frazier, government vice chairman of world area operations at Maxar.

The satellites will produce photographs with resolutions of 30 to 50 centimeters, however will present excessive revisit instances: as frequent as 15 revisits a day “over areas of the world that matter,” he mentioned, one thing he mentioned is of curiosity to its protection and intelligence clients particularly.

The corporate has disclosed restricted particulars about the way it will obtain that prime revisit fee. Frazier declined to state what number of satellites will probably be a part of WorldView Legion, aside from the satellites will probably be launched in two units, one in 2021 and the opposite in 2022. The satellites will probably be in a mixture of sun-synchronous and mid-inclination orbits, with the latter, he mentioned, providing extra frequent revisits in mid-latitudes.

Airbus can be looking for to extend revisit charges with new satellites. The corporate expects to have 4 CO3D satellites in orbit in 2022 underneath a contract introduced in July. These satellites will present imagery at a decision of fifty centimeters, and could possibly be augmented by further satellites sooner or later.

François Lombard, director of intelligence enterprise at Airbus, mentioned the corporate can be investing in a variety of different imagery and knowledge sources, from drones to a stake in HawkEye 360, an organization growing a smallsat constellation to geolocate radiofrequency alerts. “We’re testing a number of issues in the marketplace,” he mentioned. “I feel we are going to see over the subsequent two years additional trials, additional assessments.”

Italian firm e-GEOS, which markets SAR imagery from the 4 Cosmo-Skymed satellites, expects the primary second-generation Cosmo-Skymed satellite tv for pc to launch in December, mentioned Massimo Claudio Comparini, chief government of e-GEOS. A second will launch in 2020, and discussions are underway with the Italian authorities on financing two extra satellites.

ImageSat Worldwide (ISI) has only one imaging satellite tv for pc in orbit now, Eros-B, now 13 years outdated. Nonetheless, Noam Segal, chief government of the corporate, mentioned the corporate is engaged on a next-generation, beginning with Eros-C1 in June 2020. Two extra satellites will comply with in 2021 and 2024.

He added that ImageSat will quickly signal an settlement that “will put in our possession” two SAR satellites in 2021 and 2024, however declined to enter specifics of that association. “I’m assured that, within the subsequent 5 years, ISI could have a brand new house constellation of types,” he mentioned.

With their present and future satellites, corporations are in search of new clients for each imagery from them in addition to knowledge merchandise developed from these photographs. “The variety of customers is evolving,” mentioned Lombard. “There’s loads of new sorts of utilization that are developing. The problem we’ve got is to play with this variety however nonetheless standardize a bit, make it worthwhile and environment friendly.”

Whereas Maxar does in depth enterprise each with U.S. authorities businesses and people of international governments, Frazier mentioned the corporate was actively in search of new functions. “I’m actually enthusiastic about what’s occurring within the automotive business,” he mentioned. “There’s a requirement for high-resolution mapping to allow autonomy, which requires an order of magnitude extra element.”

Comparini mentioned e-GEOS has been looking for partnerships in a spread of potential markets, like agriculture, the place the corporate established a three way partnership to market knowledge merchandise. “It is a scheme that I might like to mirror in different domains, like insurance coverage and finance,” he mentioned.

Segal mentioned that ImageSat has been growing its personal knowledge merchandise based mostly on imaging, however added a be aware of warning. “The query I’m coping with, do we’ve got sufficient hungry folks on the market?” he mentioned. “The market stays very, very difficult.”

He warned about knowledge analytics corporations that purchase imagery, typically at deep reductions, after which promote more and more subtle knowledge merchandise based mostly on that imagery. “I don’t see analytics corporations, no less than in our case, driving enormous development out there,” he mentioned. “If you happen to permit a 25-person firm to purchase your knowledge at a 70% low cost, you let the tail wag the canine. We won’t be able to remain in enterprise.”

Lombard mentioned he was in “pleasant disagreement” with that evaluation. “I see the market really rising,” he mentioned. “Each time we offer to the shopper the means to digest extra knowledge, to investigate extra knowledge in actual time as a part of the stream of exercise, they take extra knowledge.”

“Perhaps not all gamers will profit from it. It relies upon a bit on the worth added that you simply convey,” he added. “However, to date, so good.”

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