Satnews Daily
September 5th, 2017

SSL's Six Planet Smallsats Arrive Safely at Vandenburg AFB for October Launch

In a first for the industry, six satellites, built in California, to be launched in California, for a California company, have all arrived at the Vandenberg Air Force Base, where they are scheduled to be launched on a Minotaur rocket in October.

Space Systems Loral (SSL) built the six high-resolution small satellites for Planet for that firm's SkySat Earth observation constellation — a fleet Planet gained through the acquisition of the Terra Bella business from Google, Inc. in April of 2017. The satellites will double Planet’s high resolution imaging capabilities and help deliver information to users about our physical world that impacts decision making.

The satellites, called SkySat 8 through 13, are each about 60 x 60 x 95 centimeters, weigh about 100 kilograms, and capture sub-meter color imagery and up to 90-second clips of HD video with 30 frames per second. Working together with the seven SkySats already on orbit, the satellites will dramatically increase Planet’s high resolution imaging capabilities, enabling multiple imaging passes in a single day. These capabilities, combined with Planet’s over 170 Dove satellites and their advanced software analytics platform, make it possible to derive timely insights from any location in the world. The Planet constellation provides a broad range of data, tools, and analytical services that help leaders in business and humanitarian sectors solve complex problems.

Four SkySats built by SSL were launched in September of 2010, and SSL is currently building an additional eight LEOs for Planet in the SSL SmallSat manufacturing facility in Palo Alto, California, where the company takes an innovative approach to satellite design, assembly, and test.

The group President at SSL, Dario Zamarian, noted that smallsats and Earth Observation (EO) satellites are a growing focus for SSL — the company is known for working collaboratively with customers and, for these satellites, SSL has taken a fresh approach to manufacturing, learning from the firm's GEO experience as well as looking for new and more efficient processes that, in turn, also assist the company's large satellite manufacturing processes.

Will Marshall, the co-founder and CEO of Planet, commented that these SkySats double the amount of high resolution data that the company can capture and serve to users, and will power insights, inform smart decisions, and most importantly, help make the world a better and safer place. The highly experienced team at SSL has been helpful and responsive as all work together to get the satellites prepared for launch.

SSL's experience ranges from building and integrating solutions for services such as communications, EO, on orbit servicing, space robotics, and exploration.

Additionally, SSL now has a new website that reflects the firm's broad engagements within the space technologies and systems arenas.