British firm Earth-i has announced its intention to launch a large constellation of Earth observation satellites.
A prototype spacecraft will be sent into space later this year and five commercial platforms are expected to follow in early 2019, it was revealed today at the UK Space Conference.
Earth-i’s new satellites will deliver high-resolution colour imagery of the planet in both photo and video form.
The video imagery provided by the new observation satellites could be used to track moving objects such as cars and aircraft or, if fixed on a point, construct 3D models of the ground below.
At best resolution, the satellites will see features just under a metre across.
Earth-i's system will be the first European constellation to provide high-definition video of the earth and the first in the world to provide it in colour.
Speaking to City A.M., Richard Blain, chief executive officer of Earth-i, said: "I'm delighted to be making this announcement today at the UK Space Conference in my hometown of Manchester. It is a very proud moment that we have been building up to for a long time and a British first for colour video imaging from space."
Located nearby the Surrey Space Centre, Europe’s largest academic space campus, Earth-i currently provides satellite images from a constellation of three Low Earth Orbit high-resolution multispectral optical satellites. These satellites orbit the earth 15 times a day, travelling 7.5km in one second.
The company processes and sells space photographs to the Defence, Security & Intelligence, Energy & Natural Resources, Agriculture, Urban Management, and Environmental & Disaster Response governmental sectors.
NGOs are also interested in Earth-i’s resources. The demand for satellite-navigation services is growing as many smartphone applications now rely on such technology.
Those in the financial sector who trade in commodities are also benefiting. They are now able to gain insight into supply chain activities at particular factories, ports, mines and oil fields.
Josef Aschbacher, director of earth observation at the European Space Agency, said: "There is an almost insatiable demand for data from space as people are realising its true value to both their planning and daily operations."
This constellation launch will allow Earth-i to own their own satellites for the first time.
“Owning our own constellation will enable us to completely customise our offering because we’ll have total control over mission planning and tasking, as well as assured access to our own significant global data source. We are also pioneering new value-added services and big data analytics that promise to extract the highest value from space data; as well as working with partner organisations to support in the delivery of global services," said Blain.
Following the launch of the five satellites in early 2019, subsequent batches of five will follow depending on demand.