Earth-i plans to launch commercial video satellite constellation


UK-based satellite company Earth-i has plans to launch and operate commercial constellation to offer both video and imagery.

Claimed to be the first in the world to offer full-colour video footage, Europe’s first commercial video satellite constellation will allow the firm to meet rapidly increasing demand for high-resolution Earth Observation data, as well as big data analytics and insights derived from this data.

Earth-i CEO Richard Blain said: “We’re now at the forefront of the commercialisation of space and the rapid evolution of the New Space market.

“Earth-i is a well-funded, capable and confident business that is following a different route to our US counterparts. We have designed and developed our constellation for organisations that need to strike a different balance between the cost of acquiring data from space, and access to sufficiently high-resolution of quality images and video to enable the detailed analysis that will help to further improve their own performance and capabilities.

“Owning our own constellation will enable us to completely customise our offering because we’ll have total control over mission planning and tasking, as well as assured access to our own significant global data source. We are also pioneering new value-added services and big data analytics that promise to extract the highest value from space data; as well as working with partner organisations to support in the delivery of global services.”

Earth-i has commissioned an advanced small satellite for its constellation. It has made use of advanced, proprietary technology mostly developed in the UK and already proven on small satellites.

The constellation will have several new capabilities, including the provision of images and full motion, high-definition colour video with resolutions better than 1m, as well as the ability to precisely film moving targets such as vehicles.

“We’re now at the forefront of the commercialisation of space and the rapid evolution of the New Space market."

Due to the use of video, more images can be captured which can be put together to create virtual 3D models.

Building of the constellation commences with the launch of Earth-i’s first prototype satellite later in the year. It is being made and launched in partnership with Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL).

Originally a spun off from the University of Surrey, SSTL is part of the Airbus Defence and Space Group.

This satellite will be tested on performance and other aspects for the future constellation, including tasking, data downlinks to ground stations, and image quality and video from space.

The new technology has already gone through testing on an existing SSTL R&D satellite launched in 2015.

Earth-i intends to launch its first batch of commercial satellites in early 2019, following a 15-month programme of additional testing and research applications. Until then, the company will also be developing an advanced service that will enable easy acquisition and analysis of imagery, as well as use algorithms to derive additional value from the data gathered from the constellation.