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FLOCK of Doves

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.

Doves_in_Space

Doves in Space.

 

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.

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First two Planet Labs “Doves” are deployed from their container on board the ISS.

 

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Closer look at Planet Labs’ Doves leaving Nanoracks deployment container.

 

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More Doves in space.

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.

 

 

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A dove cube nano-satellite with custom artwork. All the Doves will have original artwork on the body.

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.

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28 Doves make up “Flock 1”. All ready for launch.

 

 

Digital Globe’s Worldview 3 Launched

Digital Globe’s WorldView-3 multi-spectral Earth observation satellite was successfully launched on board a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket on August 13th. Taking off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California the Atlas 5 rocket carried the nearly 3 tonne satellite into a polar sun-synchronous orbit at about 629 kilometres above the Earth’s surface.

Launch of Atlas AV-014 ICO G1

Digital Globe’s WorldView-3 blasting off on board the Atlas 5-401 rocket.

It’s the 10th of 15 launches planned by United Launch Alliance for 2014, and quite an exciting one at that as Worldview-3 is the first satellite to provide high-res multi-spectral imagery for commercial use and is designed to be operational for a minimum of 7.5 years.

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Video of the Atlas 5 launch.

Earlier this year the US Department of Commerce approved a request by Digital Globe to make its ultra-sharp 25cm resolution imagery available for commercial use. Something that was previously only available to the US government and military. This new policy enables Digital Globe to provide 46cm resolution imagery immediately from its satellites currently in orbit, the GeoEye-1 and WorldView-2 satellites. The policy was however accompanied with a requirement, that Digital Globe is to wait until six months after WorldView-3 is fully operational before it can start offering the satellite’s 30cm resolution imagery to commercial costumers.

If you would like more information on the WorldView-3 satellite please follow the links below.

Scantherma_Icon_PNG                 Our WorldView-3 blog

Ball            Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp

ULA logo     United Launch Alliance

 

 

 

Digital Globe’s World-View 3

WorldView-3 prepared and ready for launch

Ball Aerospace’s WorldView-3 satellite has arrived at the Vandenberg Air Force Base ready for launch. It has gone through and passed a full suite of environmental, functional and performance tests in preparation for integration with the launch vehicle, an Atlas 5  Rocket, along with thorough pre-ship reviews by Ball Aerospace and DigitalGlobe. Slated for launch in mid August 2014 it will settle to a final orbital altitude of 617 km above the Earth. It’s the newest of Digital Globe’s orbital remote sensing platforms and the youngest in the WorldView family after WorldView 1 and 2.

The Atlas 5 Launch platform (rocket) ready for take off.

Combined Technologies

There is much excitement surrounding this launch as WorldView-3 has a few new tools in it’s belt.  Ball Aerospace have combined the knowledge and technologies gained through the development and successful launch of  WorldView -1 and -2, QuickBird, QuikSCAT, ICESat, CloudSat, NPP, and Radarsat to develop this new platform. It will be the first multi-payload, super-spectral, high-resolution commercial satellite for earth observations and advanced geospatial data.

WorldView-3 will be collecting imagery at 31 cm panchromatic resolution, 1.24m multi-spectral resolution, 3.7m short-wave infrared (SWIR) resolution, and 30m CAVIS resolution. All this would not be possible if not for the 1.1m aperature telescope (built by Exelis) that allows it resolutions not achievable by smaller satellites.

Worldview-3 satellite pre-launch diagnostics and tests at Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp lab

 

 Great news for Remote Sensing

Up until recently Digital Globe was only licensed to sell imagery of less than 50 cm panchromatic, 2.0m multi-spectral, or 7.5 meter SWIR resolution to the US Military. Now it has been permitted to provide images of up to 25cm (panchromatic) and 1.0m (multi-spectral) to all its customers. Image resolution and clarity that has not been seen before in the commercial market. This high resolution satellite imagery will be available approximately six months after WorldView 3 becomes operational.

If you would like to know more about satellite imagery and Scantherma’s remote sensing services please visit our remote sensing page or drop in to our Perth office during business hours.

 

 

 

Mappt now supports ArcGIS Compact Cache Bundles

We are pleased to announce that Mappt now supports ArcGIS Compact Cache Bundles.

Loading in your own satellite imagery is a common feature request for Mappt  and it’s not hard to see why.  Accessing your own imagery from a tablet gives GIS professionals and field workers the unprecedented power of being able to stand inside their data and perform ground surveys and analysis with total confidence they are looking at the correct features.  The inclusion of Compact Cache bundles is one of several new features that allows loading of custom imagery into Mappt and at the time of writing we are the only option outside of ESRI to utilize this format.  Mappt has been tested on the Sony XPeria Z with 30Gb of imagery and we have found the only limitation is the amount of free space on the SD card.

Mappt with a Compact Cache Bundle of ASTER satellite imagery.

Mappt with a Compact Cache Bundle of ASTER satellite imagery.

Compact Cache Bundles are a convenient format for tiled Imagery.   The biggest advantage of compact caches over an exploded format is that it eliminates the overhead associated with thousands of little files which means faster file transfer times and less space on disk.  This is a huge deal when transferring several Gigabytes worth of imagery onto a tablet.

Behind the scenes compact cache bundles act like a phone book.

compact_cache_bundle_hieracy

Up to 16,000 tiles for a particular level of detail are conglomerated into a single file with a .bundle extension.  This file has a companion with a .bundlx extension that acts like an address book for tiles.   Looking up the address for a tile has some computational overhead compared to an exploded format but fortunately we were able to optimize it to the point where there is no impact on Mappt’s performance.

Landsat 8. Seeing the world change

The Earth is constantly changing and never before were we able to see it in such detail. For the past 4 decades the Landsat mission has been giving us invaluable Earth imagery. Now with Landsat 8 (formally Landsat Data Continuity Mission) images are streaming back to earth in greater detail and resolution.

Below are some examples of the vast amount of satellite imagery that can be found on the USGS website.

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Lake Urmia receding over time. Images were taken by Landsat 5 and Landsat 8, courtesy of NASA and USGS.

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Lake Bahr al Milh receding over time. Images were taken by Landsat 5, Landsat 7 and Landsat 8, courtesy of NASA and USGS.

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View of the 2013 Flooding in Cambodia. Images were taken by Landsat 8, courtesy of NASA and USGS.

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View of the the water level on Lake Mead in 2013. Images were taken by Landsat 8, courtesy of NASA and USGS.

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View of the 2013 Mississippi River Floods subsiding. Images were taken by Landsat 8, courtesy of NASA and USGS.

Landsat 8 officially started operating May 2013 when the satellites operations was transferred from NASA to USGS (United States Geological Survey). Along with this hand over the name of the mission was changed from Landsat Data Continuity Mission to Landsat 8. The USGS now manages the satellite flight operations team within the Mission Operations Center, which remains located at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Find the above and many more images taken by the Landsat mission satellites at high-resolution at http://landsat.usgs.gov/gallery_view.php?category=nocategory&thesort=pictureId

 If you’re after satellite imagery for commercial use Scantherma has high grade acquisition and image processing services. Images can be sourced from any commercial satellite, such as Landsat mission satellites and we can cater for most budgets with quick turn around. Visit the Remote Sensing section of the Scantherma website for more information.

ESA launches PROBA-V Satellite

When you hear of a satellite being launched what pictures come to mind? Probably something like this.

Launch of Delta IV NROL-65, August 28, 2013 from Vandenberg Air Force Base

Well that may be so. But never judge a book by its cover, or in this case size.

Now the European Space Agency has launched the PROBA-V, the newest in the PROBA series  of mini-satellites to monitor Earth’s vegetation.

This duty had, for the past 15 years been given to the SPOT-4 and SPOT-5 satellites, both much larger than PROBA-V.

spot4 Satellite

SPOT-4 Satellite in orbit

ESA launched this washing machine sized survey satellite on May 6th 2013 along with two other satellites in the same launch vehicle, the VEGA rocket. The first one being Vietnam’s VNREDSat Earth observation mission and the second Estonia’s ESTCube-1 student nano-satellite, to test electric solar sail technology.

 

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Proba-V sits on top of the VEGA launch adapter which contains the other two satellites. VNREDSat and ESTCube-1.

The VEGA VV02 Rocket ready for launch

It’s daily routine consists of orbiting the Earth 14 times and capturing vegetation data with it’s 100m resolution camera. Every 10 days it will output a 200,000 megapixel image of the Earth’s vegetation.

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World Vegetation as captured by PROBA-V

As mentioned above this sort of data collection was and is to some degree done by the Vegetation 1 and Vegetation 2 sensors on the SPOT-4 and SPOT-5 satellites. But these sensors will be unavailable. To replace them ESA is developing a new series of satellites called Sentinel under the Copernicus program, previously called GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security).

Altogether 5 are being developed and Sentinel 3 will be taking on most of the duties of SPOT-4 and 5, and more. But these satellites will not be ready in time, so in order to breach the gap and have continuous collection of data  ESA decided to develop a small satellite mission based on the much successful PROBA design.

PROBA-V is designed and developed entirely in Belgium using state of the art technologies and will be “holding the fort” till ESA launches Sentinel 3 next year.

Scantherma ESA-PROBA-V

PROBA-V ready for business

If you would like to know more about satellite imagery and Scantherma’s remote sensing services please visit our remote sensing page or drop in to our Perth office during business hours.

Landsat 8 Sensors

Landsat 8 launched in February will orbit the Earth fourteen times a day, following the same sequence of ground tracks as Landsat 4, 5 and 7. This allows data to be produced in the same WRS-2 path and row grid system, but collecting 150 more scenes per day than Landsat 7. This greatly increases the possibility of obtaining cloud-free satellite imagery. Although it has been built around a design life of 5 years, it was launched with enough fuel to keep it in orbit and operational for over 10 years. The Landsat satellite has 2 main imaging systems on board. The Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS)  and the Operational Land Imager (OLI).

The failure of the Scan-Line Corrector on Landsat 7 has driven the change from a whiskbroom to a pushbroom sensor for the OLI (image 1)on Landsat8. This brings it into line with most other modern satellite systems. Besides this major design change, the other specifications of the OLI are very similar to the Landsat TM and ETM+ sensors.

Imagery will be collected at a resolution of 30m for multispectral data and 15m for panchromatic data with a swath width of 185km. It will include all spectral bands used by Landsat TM and ETM+ along with two extra bands. One is a shorter wavelength blue band designed for aerosol remote sensing and monitoring coastal water quality. The other is a SWIR band designed for monitoring cirrus clouds.

The TIRS instrument (image 2) has also remained similar to its predecessors on Landsat TM and ETM+. The only upgrade being that now the single thermal band is split in two providing measurements at a spatial resolution of 100m.

Image1: The OLI Instrument:  To help calibrate the system the left hand opening will be aligned with the Earth and the right with the Sun.

Image1: The OLI Instrument:
To help calibrate the system the left hand opening will be aligned with the Earth and the right with the Sun.

 

Image2: Landsat 8 TIRS:   (Thermal Infrared Sensor) Instrument. The second of Landsat 8's two sensors.

Image2: Landsat 8 TIRS:

(Thermal Infrared Sensor) Instrument. The second of Landsat 8’s two sensors.

Image 3:  Landsat 8 at Orbital Science Corp.

Image 3:
Landsat 8 at Orbital Science Corp.

Image 4:  Landsat 8 Imagery is taken at different wavelengths and then combined to give the final image. Different terrain features can be seen based on the combination of the different colour layers.

Image 4:
Landsat 8 Imagery is taken at different wavelengths and then combined to give the final image. Different terrain features can be seen based on the combination of the different colour layers.

First Landsat 8 Images

The first images taken by NASA’s LDCM or Landsat 8 satellite have started coming through.

NASA has also updated their LDCM website with a lot of technical data about the satellite and its mission, including the below quote:

 “But the work is only beginning for validating the data quality and getting ready for normal mission operations. These images were processed using pre-launch settings, which must be checked and adjusted now that LDCM is in orbit to ensure that the data accurately measure the intensity of reflected and emitted light received by the instruments. The mission operations team also needs to ensure that each pixel is accurately located on Earth’s surface. LDCM’s normal operations are scheduled to begin in late May when the instruments have been calibrated and the spacecraft has been fully checked out. At that time, NASA will hand over control of the satellite to the USGS, which will operate the satellite throughout its planned five-year mission life. The satellite will be renamed Landsat 8, and data from OLI and TIRS will be processed and added to the Landsat Data Archive at the Earth Resources Observation and Science Center in South Dakota, where it will be distributed for free over the Internet.”

There’s more information at NASA’s LDCM site:

 http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/landsat/main/index.html

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One of the first images taken by the Landsat Data Continuity Mission satellite. Image courtesy of NASA

Landsat Data Continuity Mission Launched

On February 11th 2013 the Landsat Earth Observation Mission was extended with the launch of the Landsat Continuity Mission on an Atlas V rocket. Once the satellite is in position and operational it will be renamed to Landsat 8. It will be the seventh satellite in the “Landsat” series which started with Landsat 7 (Originally called Earth Resources Technology Satellite)  launched in 1972.

Landsat has made contributions to the scientific community commercial sectors in a range of ways that include agriculture, ecology, water resources, natural hazards, deforestation, spread of disease,  web-mapping and many others.

Aside from all the scientific applications Landsat data has, it has also led to the discovery of  hidden archaeological sites, new lands, features and even species on the Earth’s surface. For example a never before recorded reef was discovered in the Indian Ocean and an island off the coast of Labrador, Canada. In tribute to it’s discoverer, the island was named Landsat island.

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Atlas V rocket lifting off with the Landsat_Data_Continuity_Mission (Landsat 8) satellite on board.

Landsat 8 satellite sitting inside its protective housing that will be mounted atop the Atlas V rocket.

Landsat 8 satellite sitting inside its protective housing that will be mounted atop the Atlas V rocket.