Planet launches satellite constellation to image the whole planet daily
On February 14, 2017, Planet successfully launched 88 Dove satellites—the largest satellite constellation ever to reach orbit. This is not just a launch (or a world record, for that matter,) for Planet this is a major milestone. With these satellites in orbit, Planet will reach its Mission 1: the ability to image all of Earth’s landmass every day.
The night of February 14 was the culmination of a huge effort over the past 5 years. In 2011 Planet set itself the audacious mission of imaging the entire Earth land area every day. They 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. Planet calculated that it would take between 100-150 satellites to achieve this, and they started building them. After this launch, Planet operates 149 satellites in orbit. They have reached their milestone.
It has taken a minor Apollo project to get there! Behind the scenes Planet has miniaturized satellites; learned how to manufacture them at scale; constructed the world’s second largest private network of ground stations; custom built an automated mission control system; created a massive data pipeline able to process the vast amount of imagery collected; and developed a software platform that lets customers, researchers, governments and NGOs access imagery quickly. Each of these has been a significant undertaking in and of itself—and together it represents a major systems engineering project. This is not to mention the non-engineering efforts from raising capital, receiving regulatory licenses, booking launches, and building a base of hundreds of partners that use the data to solve their needs. Without a doubt, the single largest driver behind this record-breaking success is the unrelenting dedication of the Planet team.
Here are some additional facts and figures regarding this launch:
- The 88 Dove satellites (collectively known as “Flock 3p”) rode aboard a PSLV rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India
- This leads to two world records: a record for the most satellites ever launched on a single rocket; and a record for the largest private satellite constellation in history, totaling 149 satellites in all
- This is Planet’s 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
- After deployment, all 88 satellites will be autonomously commissioned in batches. It is expected that Flock 3p will enter normal imaging operations in about three months
- Each of the Flock 3p satellites—our 13th build—sports a 200 mbps downlink speed and can collect over 2 million km² per day