It has surely been an amazing start for India’s rapidly advancing space programme, into this new year. Such is the power behind India’s ambitious mission to be a global space player, that the entire nation stood united in celebrating the record-breaking, mammoth 104 satellite launch, completed by ISRO with clinical precision yesterday.
While we here in India celebrate the record-breaking feat, let us also shed some light on Planet, the American earth imagery upstart, which owned 88 of those 104 satellites on board. The upstart had onboarded 88 of its “dove” satellites, to complete, what has now become world’s second largest network of private satellites, comprising a whopping 149 satellites.
So what exactly is Planet ?
Well, the startup is an earth imagery company, which came up due to the commercial need of high definition imagery of our planet. While we commoners roam around, armed with stuff like Google Maps (and possibly Earth), there are many enterprises and even NGOs globally, who need much more advanced, minutely-detailed imagery of our planet. Planet (the startup), provides exactly that.
And to achieve such a feat, the company has been undergoing a massive effort over the past 5 years. In 2011 Planet set itself the audacious mission of imaging the entire Earth land area every day. The company calculated that it would take between 100-150 satellites to achieve this, and we started building them. After today’s launch, Planet operates 144 satellites in orbit, thus reaching the requiring milestone.
We were convinced that armed with such data, humanity would be able to have a significant positive impact on many of the world’s greatest challenges.
said the company in a blog post on today’s launch.
The launch, as we all are extremely well versed with, took place aboard ISRO’s literally blindly trusted PSLV rocket. It was the C37 rocket today which achieved the feat. These 88 satellites are together named as Flock 3p.
For Planet, this was its 15th launch of Dove satellites and second aboard India’s PSLV. The launch of Flock 3p comes off the successful launch of Flock 2p on the PSLV in June 2016.
Post deployment, all 88 satellites will be autonomously commissioned in batches. The company expects Flock 3p to enter normal imaging operations in about three months. Each of the Flock 3p satellites—our 13th build—sports a 200 mbps downlink speed and is capable of collecting over 2 million km² per day