Planet Labs, a relatively new private satellite company based in San Francisco has launched 28 Doves into space. Why would anyone release doves into space you may ask. Well these are no ordinary doves, they are micro imaging satellites.
In January this year Planet Labs sent the small “Flock” of their satellites on board the Antares rocket to rendezvous with the ISS (International Space Station). In February they were launched into orbit. Flock 1 as the 28 satellites are collectively named is currently the largest constellation of satellites in orbit. Including Flock 1, Planet Labs has 71 small satellites in various orbits around the Earth.
For over 4 decades the Landsat mission has been keeping a close eye on Earth, taking images of the entire globe every 7 to 8 days. Now Planet Labs hopes to take it to the next level starting with Flock 1. In the near future there will be many of these “Flocks” of satellites in multiple orbits surrounding the Earth made up of hundreds of individual satellites thus enabling the daily capture of imagery. That’s the image of the entire Earth updated every day. The daily image updates would have many applications not fully satisfied with the current serving orbital image missions.
Another great advantage of the “Dove” satellites is that they are very cost effective. In fact they’re cheap enough to be expendable. This means that the satellites can be deployed as the design and system is still under development and improvement. This drastically cuts down on the cost and time that usually goes into R&D and the stringent testing of satellites before launch.