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Micro-Satellites: A "New Space" era launches... Earth Imaging, Earth Science, a First Open-Access Planet API

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Democratizing Space: Eyes in the Sky, Monitoring the Earth by Satellite

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California's Governor Jerry Brown

With a Reputation for Forward-Thinking about Space
Continues to Talk the Big Picture and What Can Be

MicroSats Changing Business on Earth
New Perspectives, New Data is reshaping industries

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"We got the scientists. We got the lawyers. And we're ready to fight. We're ready to defend. And California is no stranger to this fight...

"California is the future. We are pioneering space...

"Now some people say they're going to turn off the satellites that are monitoring the climate... low-earth phenomena, the LANDSAT and all the various measuring satellites that we have...

"Well, I remember back in 1978 I proposed a LANDSAT satellite for California. They called me 'Governor Moonbeam' because of that. I didn't get that moniker for nothing.

"And if Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own (d-mn) satellites!"


  • Planet, signalling 'New Space' in California

Looking Back: How a NASA Team Turned a Smartphone into a Satellite Business -- Feb 2016

""Satellites aren’t small or cheap"". This is changing. The Solar Dynamics Observatory launched by NASA in 2010 weighs about 6,800 pounds and cost $850 million to build and put into orbit.

Even the satellites built under NASA’s Discovery Program, aimed at encouraging development of low-cost spacecraft, still have price tags beyond the reach of smaller companies or research organizations: one such satellite, the sun-particle collecting Genesis, ran up $164 million in expenses despite its modest design and mission.

The change is coming fast as increasingly powerful technology arrives in increasingly smaller packages. For example, in 2010 NASA and the Department of Defense launched the Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite, aptly called FASTSAT. Weighing in at just 400 pounds, FASTSAT cost just $10 million and carried out six experiments in orbit, proving that low-cost, quick-to-assemble spacecraft were possible.

Think of your own cellphone as a digital brain, a comand-and-control system. Pete Klupar, director of engineering at Ames Research Center, was fond of pulling a government-issued smartphone out of his pocket during speeches and wondering aloud about the phone, which had a faster processor and better sensors than many satellites, and cost so little in comparison — after which he slipped the phone back in his pocket and carried on.

An Ames researcher named Chris Boshuizen took Klupar’s musings to heart. Having seen the phone schtick before, Boshuizen and his colleague Will Marshall (now of PlanetLabs) once interjected during a talk by Klupar when he began to muse aloud about satellite costs.

Can you picture it? “Will said, ‘Pete, don’t put that back in your pocket,’” Boshuizen recalls. “‘We’re going to make that into a satellite.’” And then he did exactly that... Hello Planet Labs!

By September 2013, a NASA team originally led by Boshuizen and Marshall successfully launched its first PhoneSats into low-Earth orbit at a cost of just $7,000 each. Named Alexander, Graham and Bell, the three mini-orbiters took pictures from space and beamed the data back to Earth, demonstrating for the first time that a consumer-grade smartphone could be used to power a satellite in space. Successive generations of 'PhoneSats', launched by NASA and housed inside of 'CubeSats', have since demonstrated increasingly greater capabilities.

Boshuizen and Marshall — joined by Robbie Schingler, another research scientist at Ames — left NASA to found Planet Labs Inc., focused on using inexpensive, off-the-shelf commercial components to build ever-smaller satellites.

“Instead of doing it the old-school Apollo way, with a lot of system design and analysis and then building the thing at the end, we decided to do it the software way, which is building a minimum-viable prototype first just to show that we have a working model, then going on from there,” Boshuizen says of the process they used to create their satellites, a strategy the company calls “agile aerospace.”

The first prototypes proved promising enough that the company had no trouble raising funds from venture capital in the Silicon Valley near where they had moved. The money allowed the company to hire engineers and produce more of the satellites, named Doves, pioneering what is becoming known as the "Democratization of Space", focusing on earth science. Unlike the first generation of satellites that focused on military operations and communication services, the New Space satellites have broadened toward earth studies and are improving with each iteration. Launching in space from the International Space Station's newly developed release platform system with another New Space start-up, NanoRacks, the future of earth-facing micro-satellites looks promising, especially for myriad earth science open applications like Planet Labs' Planet API.

By February 2014, the company dispatched the first of its commercial “flock,” when 28 Doves were released from the ISS. These were followed by further deployments that brought the fleet’s total to more than 130 satellites — enough to produce high-resolution imagery of nearly the entire globe on a daily basis.

“We’re going to be gaining insight into the changing planet in a way no one’s ever gotten before...”

  • California and Silicon Valley digital technology power up a new industry and new ways of seeing and studying our world

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[edit] #PlanetCitizen

'Planet Citizen' Earth Science from Space

Earth Science Research from Space

Building an API for the Planet: Will Marshall/PlanetLabs [1]

Mission: Democratising Access to Information About the Changing Planet [2]

NanoRacks, Science and Earth Observation Platform in Space

Time for Planet Labs 'Doves' to fly #Micro-satellite_Doves fly

"Girl Scouts -- Orbital" "Flock 1"

NanoRacks Deploys

Doves deployment into space continues [3] [4][5] [6]

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Wiki looks at 'small sats/micro sats/mini sats

Wiki looks at "NewSpace" [7] [8]

Nextgen #earthscience: A New Era studying #climatechange and #globalsecurity

“Five years from now, there might be 200 or more up there..."

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Geoscience Satellites -- Start-up companies

BlackBridge [9], Dauria [10], DigitalGlobe [11] [12] [13] GeoEye [14],

Firefly Space Systems [15] [16], GeoOptics [17], NanoRacks [18], [19] [20]

NovaWurks [21], OmniEarth [22] [23] [24] [25], OrbitLogic [26], PlanetiQ [27]

Planet Labs [28] Pulse [29] [30] [31], RapidEye [32], Skybox [33] [34] [35]

Teledyne [36], Tyvak Nano-Sat [37], Urthecast [38]

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OpenNEX, NASA asks public to join in with space data monitoring earth [39]

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Planet Citizens Sends Doves to Fly

New Vision in a 360 Connected World

Digital knowledge and #OpenData utilized in new ways by #PlanetCitizens

Applications designed, developed, launched and new apps yet-to-be developed

On the launch of Planet Labs 'Dove' nanosatellites

Robbie Schingler, co-founder of Planet Labs: “We are motivated to make information about the changing planet available to all people, especially the people who need it the most..."

"The imagery could be used by anyone who cares about changes in land use over time.” [40]

"Rapid cadence imagery, like Planet Labs is developing, helps us become better, more sustainable stewards of Earth." [41]

Will Marshall, co-founder of Planet Labs talks of democratization of space: videos [42] [43]

Planet Labs, the largest fleet of Earth-imaging satellites... the 'Doves'...

The data is expansive and of added value over time:

- humanitarian applications, earth resource monitoring, sustainability and eco-nomics
- extreme event and disaster relief
- food systems, water distribution, improving agriculture
- business intelligence (BI) metrics/performance
- research, science

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New Space News

Q2-Q3 2014

Google Buys Skybox [44] [45] [46] [47]

[Background] June 18, 2013 Inside a Startup’s Plan to Turn a Swarm of DIY Satellites Into an All-Seeing Eye [48]

June 16, 2014 - Wall Street Journal / by Christopher Mims [49]

By 2016 or so, Skybox will be able to take full images of the Earth twice a day, at a resolution that until last week was illegal to sell commercially — all with just a half-dozen satellites.

By the time its entire fleet of 24 satellites has launched in 2018, Skybox will be imaging the entire Earth at a resolution sufficient to capture, for example, real-time video of cars driving down the highway. And it will be doing it three times a day.

You might think, thanks to weather maps and the satellite view on Google Maps, that such imagery already is readily available. But because satellites were, until recently, so expensive to build and launch, that isn't the case. There are only nine satellites in orbit now that capture high resolution images for the commercial market, and their capabilities are regularly commandeered for national-security purposes by the U.S. government. That means most of the pictures of the Earth that you've seen are of poor quality and years out of date.

At Google, the business of Skybox isn't data, but knowledge. "We think we are going to fundamentally change humanity's understanding of the economic landscape on a daily basis," says Skybox co-founder Dan Berkenstock...

Skybox's images will inevitably lead to apps and services no one can envision — with unknowable disruptive potential. Skybox executives tell me they hope to offer their data to outside developers... In the short term, Google has said it would use Skybox's images to improve the search company's maps.

A patent revealed in May indicates that Google builds its superaccurate maps directly from satellite imagery, and the company has long had a deal with Skybox competitor DigitalGlobe, whose satellites cost 10 times as much as Skybox's and are 10 times heavier, leading to much higher launch costs. DigitalGlobe's stock dipped 4% on news of the Skybox deal...

_ _ _ _ _

Skybox and Planet Labs / re Google's purchase of Skybox, Google has a business division called “Earth Enterprise” that provides mapping data for large organizations, institutions and businesses. “Google Earth Enterprise allows you to store and process terabytes of imagery, terrain and vector data on your own server infrastructure, and publish maps securely for your users to view using Google Earth desktop or mobile apps, or through your own application using the Google Maps API..." [50]

Planet Labs versus Skybox / The next step is something more like a Google for Earth: a search engine where people can find satellite photos taken in real or near-real time that answer questions like “How many ships are in the Port of Houston today?” or “How much corn is currently growing in Iowa?” [51]

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“With all these start-ups, the things you’ll be able to do with satellite images will grow exponentially..." IEEE, May 2014

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U.S. Department of Commerce lifts ban on satellite images showing features smaller than 20 inches - DigitalGlobe [52] [53] [54] [55]

- "Companies had not been allowed to make use of images where features smaller than 50cm were visible"

- Satellites Are Cleared to Take Photos at Mailbox-Level Detail per DigitalGlobe petition

- Worldview-3 satellite is set to launch in August. Digital Globe [56] [57] says it will now be able to sell images that show features as small as 31cm [58]

- Sites like Google and Bing Maps will be able to use higher-quality satellite images in near real-time [59] [60]... eventually real-time

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GP360: Earth-monitoring, data-sharing, open source, is coming out from the wings...

Citizen-networking/schools-education space-earth projects -- education looks at #earthscience from space... [61] [62]

24/7 high-definition video of Earth <Urthecast-ISS> [63] Urthecast APIs

Live from the International Space Station [64] [65] [66] [67]

Earth sciences/NASA-JPL and gov contractors 'Eyes on the Earth'

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Q1 2014

Until recently, since the launch of the original Landsat program in 1972, generating images of Earth from space has been the near-exclusive domain of enormous, multi-million dollar satellites sponsored by nations and major defense corporations.

  • New micro-satellites, including those launched from the ISS, aim to make real-time imaging available for a fraction of the past decades price and move us from military-defense-communication operations to economic/entrepreneurial functions, 'earth systems-monitoring' and biosphere sustainability, space 'tourism' and low earth orbit travel...

New Space, Planet Citizens, Earth Science, NextGen Tech @Work

Earth systems monitoring -


Earth Imaging -- Acquiring large data sets of Earth imagery in a simple, low-cost way, represents a new market opportunity beginning to be addressed. New telescope designs enable low-cost satellites with that purpose. [68]

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"Flocking" "Doves" "Nanosatellites" -

Google goes mapping -

Swarms of small satellites set to deliver close to real-time imagery -

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Q4 2013

"How Planet Labs Is Saving the Earth with 'Homemade' Satellites. It took less than six months to build twenty-eight of them"...


Flock of Mini- and Micro-sats delivered to space with international Dnepr co-venture -

Minotaur 1 delivers 29 mini "CubeSats" including first-ever design/build satellite project of a US high school' -

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CubeSats - CubeSat specifications accomplish several high-level goals. Simplification of the satellite's infrastructure makes it possible to design and produce workable satellites at low cost.... Encapsulation of the launcher–payload interface takes away the prohibitive amount of managerial work... Unification among payloads and launchers enables quick exchanges of payloads and utilization of launch opportunities... #CubeSats #Nanosatellites #Satdat

CubeSat 'nano-satellites' aim to adhere to the standards described in the CubeSat design specification -- CubeSats initiatives were conceived from educational institutions... In 2004, with their relatively small size, first-gen CubeSats could each be made and launched to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) for an estimated $65,000–$80,000. Acc to Wikipedia, 'recent' launch prices have been $100,000-$125,000, plus approximately $10,000 to construct a CubeSat. This price tag, far lower than most satellite launches, has made CubeSat a viable option for schools and universities across the world.

CubeSats List of CubeSats

LightSail with CubeSats, Planetary Society - Launch date April 2016 [69] Video/July 2014 Explore Planets/TW

Q3 2013

Sensors and Systems - “Every year the technology improves, with better computers and storage and payloads. The technological evolution improves, price points continue to come down, and now with a small 150 to 300 kg spacecraft for $10 to $20 million you can do what you were doing with a 1,000 kg spacecraft five to 10 years ago for $500 million.” Surrey Satellite Technology-RapidEye satellite imagery “Changing the Economics of Space” ... co-ventures/joint ventures/'ride-alongs'/shared platforms/accessible data

<more> - note connection to SpaceX - Elon Musk - note Elon Muck opening up the Tesla platform on June 12, 2014 - -

Q2 2013

Citizens in Space -

Opening up to understanding and interacting with our eco-operating systems

Share-able earth science data enabling earth biosphere systems monitoring/preservation policy advocacy by #globalcitizen orgs

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Earth systems, monitoring over time -

GEO - Group on Earth Observations -

GEOSS - Global Earth Observation System of Systems -

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Our Space/Environmental Mission

@ GreenPolicy360, our space/environmental science/physics focus is on being front-of-mind, creating and developing the field of environmental security via a "democratization of space".

"NewSpace" is in its first stages and it's an exciting time to be a Planet Citizen and sharing citizen science about #Earth360...

Fleets of micro-satellites and start-up companies pioneering the exploration and study of earth and earth's resources from the vantage point of space offer critically important data.

Unprecedented digital connectivity, networking and availability of data via the World Wide Net-Internet make possible nextgen #EarthScience.

It is time, from a unique overview of our blue planet enabled from space, to address climate issues, sustainability challenges, and a host of existential challenges.

It's time for an Earth point of view!

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