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Flock 1 on the shelf.. ready to deploy! (via PLI)


Planet Labs, based in San Francisco, CA, recently announced that its group of advanced imaging satellites, called Flock 1, was recently deployed into outer space from the International Space Station and may change the way we view our world.

 

The convoy is comprised of 28 advanced satellites that were designed to take high-quality images of the Earth to show people what astronauts see from space. It is the largest joint constellation of Earth-imaging satellites ever to be simultaneously launched into space and is expected to provide a number of valuable uses, including aiding in disaster relief, environmental monitoring and commercial use, as its images will be universally available to everyone.

 

The Flock 1 satellites belong to a class of miniature satellites commonly referred to as CubeSats and each individual satellite is called a Dove. The Dove CubeSats automatically take pictures as they track the Earth, which are stored and later transmitted when the satellites pass over established ground stations. All satellites are also able to be reprogrammed while in air. The Dove CubeSats are able to take more highly-detailed images than any other satellite because they sit between 240 and 400 miles above Earth, while most satellites circle the Earth at approximately 22,236 miles above Earth, from directly above the equator. The revisit rate is also higher than most satellites in circulation and the images collected will be taken at 52 degrees from the equator, allowing for detailed imaging of the majority of the world’s agriculture and most heavily populated regions.

 

The Dove CubeSats photos are expected to have a number of diverse functions, including identifying areas in need of disaster relief, monitoring agricultural conditions in developing countries, keeping tabs on deforestation and the shifts in polar ice caps, monitoring gas and oil rigs for spills and providing images for global positioning system applications. The satellites are also expected to provide valuable images for unmanned aerial vehicles and large imaging satellites through providing more detailed images.

 

Flock 1 was launched from the ISS in mid-February and the Planet Labs crew said this mission is just the beginning of the future of Earth-imaging satellites. The engineering team expects to use Flock 1 as a pilot for the creation of future advanced Earth-imaging satellites.


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Images from one of the satellites (via IBN)

 

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