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Category:Democratization of Space

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Democratizing Earth Science & Earth Observation

Earth Science Research from Space

Earth Observations

Announcement / Planet Labs is now just 'Planet'


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NASA Democratizing Space Research With Android / 2012

Planet Labs & NASA

Built and operated by Planet Labs of San Francisco, the Flock 1 small satellites are individually referred to as Doves. The Dove satellites are part of a class of miniature satellites often called CubeSats. These small satellites will capture imagery of Earth for use in humanitarian, environmental and commercial applications. Data collected by the Flock 1 constellation will be universally accessible to anyone who wishes to use it.

“We believe that the democratization of information about a changing planet is the mission that we are focused on, and that, in and of itself, is going to be quite valuable for the planet,” says Robbie Schingler, co-founder of Planet Labs. “One tenet that we have is to make sure that we produce more value than we actually capture, so we have an open principle within the company with respect to anyone getting access to the data.”

CubeSats like the Doves in the Flock 1 constellation are just the tip of the iceberg. As new CubeSats deploy, more data is gathered, systems are optimized and, eventually, new types of spacecraft are developed based on their predecessors in space. The space station allows for the expansion of commercial ventures in low-Earth orbit. The Earth-imaging mission of Planet Labs’ Flock 1 takes another leap toward creating benefits on Earth resulting from innovation in space.

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Q & A -- Forbes & Planet Labs / 2014

Planet Labs is a San Francisco-based startup that is using the world’s largest fleet of imaging satellites to continuously monitor Earth. The three founders are physicists who previously worked at NASA, and founded Planet Labs to provide universal access to information about the changing planet.

Give us a high-level overview of what Planet Labs is working on...

Will: We’re launching a large number of ultra-compact satellites so we can image the earth on a much more frequent basis. This is something that’s never been possible before. We believe that there is tremendous humanitarian and commercial value from that data and we care about pursuing both. We launched four demo satellites last year on three different launch vehicles testing our technology and this year we just launched our first fleet of 28 satellites. This is already the largest constellation of earth imaging satellites in human history and it’s going to be producing an unprecedented data circuit that enables us to image the whole earth on a much more rapid basis than has ever been possible before...

We’re imaging the whole earth on a regular basis.

How does the Planet Labs team balance humanitarian goals with commercial viability?

Robbie: We plan to offer a tiered pricing system as well as a freemium model. If you are a small farmer in Mozambique and you’re only looking at a hectare of data, take it. If you are a commodity trader looking at the Kenyan crop and you’re looking at millions of hectares, we have a different pricing structure. This allows us to ensure the democratization of data...

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Tech Beyond Science Fiction / 2012

There’s real movement behind the democratization of space. Not in the form of sending more people into space, but in giving more people access to satellites. Nano-satellites are getting cheap enough now that groups can raise enough money on Kickstarter to buy and launch them... If there’s any sort of democratization of space, it’s some sort of cheap space travel. Satellites don’t get much attention. The idea of everyone being able to rent time on a satellite seems truly novel. The fact that, even though I probably never will, I could learn to write apps for satellites and actually pay to have them run on a real satellite in space is much more amazing to me than being able to tell my phone to book an appointment on my calendar.

Although Android phones and Arduino boards are newish, and the cost of electronics has gone down, I don’t see a big reason why some sort of citizen satellites wouldn’t have been possible years ago. What it really took was a small leap of imagination, and that’s something I don’t take for granted anymore."

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The Disruptive Democratization of Space: Tiny satellites are diffusing remote sensing capabilities around the world / 2014

In the last seven years, twenty-one countries, never before in space, have launched small satellites. Several US states have launched their own satellites, and Alaska even has its own state-owned launch complex. In the last two years, five private companies have formed to launch small satellites... These tiny satellites-on-demand are a brilliantly disruptive application of an old technology, and established players often do not readily spot truly disruptive change. For some time, big has been a big cultural issue in the US space enterprise, as solutions are often sized for existing infrastructure. The US government and US industry need to be aware of what is becoming possible at tiers below their usual product categories.

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The US Foreign Policy Establishment Looks at the Democratizing of Space / 2015

In 1967, the United States, the Soviet Union, and many other countries signed the Outer Space Treaty, which set up a framework for managing activities in space—usually defined as beginning 62 miles above sea level. The treaty established national governments as the parties responsible for governing space, a principle that remains in place today.

Half a century later, however, building a basic satellite is no longer considered rocket science. Thanks to the availability of small, energy-efficient computers, innovative manufacturing processes, and new business models for launching rockets, it has become easier than ever to launch a space mission. These advances have opened up space to a crowd of new actors, from developing countries to small start-ups. In other words, a new space race has begun, and in this one, nation-states are not the only participants. Unlike in the first space race, the challenge in this one will not be technical; it will be figuring out how to regulate this welter of new activity.


Computing gets much of the credit for lowering the barriers to entry to space. The modern smartphone is the product of three-plus decades of advances in circuit design and fabrication techniques, and today’s processors pack 1,000 times as many transistors as their predecessors did 20 years ago. The iPhone 6 has as much computational power as a supercomputer from the 1990s did. Smaller also means more energy efficient: a typical cell phone will draw just 25 cents’ worth of electricity in a year, compared with the $36 worth a typical desktop computer does. Small, powerful, and energy-efficient hardware is perfectly suited for satellites, which have a finite amount of electricity (from solar panels) and volume. And thanks to new software-development tools and customizable hardware, anyone with even a modest programming ability can assemble a highly capable computer that could fit into a satellite.


The democratization of space will pose new challenges for policymakers, given that for the most part the existing legal framework has effectively applied to only a handful of states...


Given the abundance of challenges, policymakers will have to resort to triage. Some problems are overdue for a solution, others are imminent, and still others are merely emerging... The space community now finds itself in the same position that software developers did at the beginning of the smartphone age: an exciting new platform is about to open up, but governments have barely started to plan for how it will be used.

SpaceX, NASA & Beginnings of 'New Space'

The first successful flight of the Falcon 1 (in 2008) served as a catalyst for the commercial space industry. The privately financed development of new rockets and spacecraft, as well as commercial businesses in space beyond telecommunications, had seen ups and downs over the years but never sustained success. SpaceX’s second successful launch of the Falcon 1 rocket in 2009, when it delivered a commercial satellite into orbit, sealed the deal.

“The impact that their first successful commercial launch had on the space industry cannot be overstated,” said Chad Anderson, who runs an investment group, Space Angels, that closely tracks public and private investment in spaceflight.

This initial success helped land a multibillion dollar contract from NASA to deliver cargo to the space station and ignited a furious decade in which SpaceX has gone from a single engine rocket, to one with nine engines, to one with 27 engines. The company has also developed two spacecraft, the Dragon 1 and 2, and landed dozens of first stages.

Before SpaceX began flying the Falcon 1 rocket, there were a few dozen privately funded companies, globally, engaged in spaceflight activities. Today (as of 2018), there are 350, and they have raised $15 billion in private capital...


This category has the following 3 subcategories, out of 3 total.




Media in category "Democratization of Space"

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