Airbus releases new images from Pléiades: Airbus released a first collection of sharp images at 30cm native resolution from the Pléiades Neo 3 satellite, recently safely launched and secured in orbit. The successful acquisitions and delivery of these first images are the start of a new era for both commercial and government geospatial applications requiring a high level of accuracy and the ability to see fine details. The Pléiades Neo 3 images, covering a variety of global locations and featuring diverse acquisition angles, provide an impressive level of detail. In one it is easy to count each and every limestone block of the Giza Pyramids, and even the number of people visiting. The multi-layered construction of Castel Sant’Angelo across the years can also be seen in detail in another. Urban areas and modern architecture, and their comprehensive diversity, are clearly visible in the images over Shanghai, Dubai and Washington DC. These already very sharp images were acquired before full radiometric and system calibrations and the quality will continue to improve over the next few months. Imagery from Pléiades Neo 3 is expected to become commercially available in the third quarter 2021, after these calibration steps are completed. With the full capacity of the satellite available for commercial use, the very high-resolution and geometrically consistent Pléiades Neo 3 imagery will provide analysts with a high level of detail, including more visibility of small objects, such as vehicles and road markings. This level of detection, recognition and identification of objects provides more ground truth for image analysts and improves reliability for machine learning capabilities. The new constellation will also provide a higher geolocation accuracy and deeper spectral band information, allowing more insights to be derived for various applications. The Pléiades Neo constellation will be comprised of four identical and very agile satellites, offering reactive tasking and intraday revisit of any point on Earth. Entirely funded, designed, manufactured, owned and operated by Airbus, each satellite will add half a million km² per day at 30cm native resolution. The next milestone of the Pléiades Neo programme is the launch of Pléiades Neo 4, which is already at the launch site in Kourou, French Guiana. It is expected to launch this summer, followed by the launch of Pléiades Neo 5 and 6, in 2022.
Kleos engages ISISPACE to build third satellite cluster: Kleos Space has signed a contract with Innovative Solutions in Space B.V. (ISISPACE) to build and support its third satellite cluster of four satellites, the Polar Patrol Mission (KSF2), scheduled to launch at the end of 2021 onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9. Specialising in small-satellite solutions, the Netherlands-based ISISPACE has more than 15 years of experience in the design, manufacture, and operation of nanosatellites and is currently also preparing Kleos’ second satellite cluster, the Polar Vigilance Mission (KSF1) for dispatch to the launch site week commencing 31 May. Under the contract, ISISPACE will provide a turn-key solution including design, development, production, testing, launch integration services and early orbit phase support. The Polar Patrol Mission create an opportunity for higher value subscriptions, increasing revenues by adding more frequent cover over commercial areas of interest and additional data products to the Kleos inventory. The final mission costs incurred are anticipated to be compared to publicly available satellite costs and within the envelope of the cost of the Kleos Scouting Mission advised within the prospectus. The contract includes an optional addendum for a further three satellite clusters (12 further satellites in total) that will facilitate constellation growth with volume purchasing advantages. Funding methods for subsequent clusters will be determined by the directors and will be through a combination of revenue, equity or borrowings depending on capital market conditions prevailing at the time. Launching into a 500-600km Sun Synchronous orbit, Kleos’ third satellite cluster doubles the company’s coverage over both poles, complementing the Scouting Mission and Polar Vigilance Mission satellites, thereby enhancing global coverage. Data derived from the Scouting Mission satellites is expected to commence to early adopter customers shortly. Kleos’ Polar Vigilance satellites are on track for a mid-2021 launch onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9, following the recent successful completion of key development milestones with ISISPACE.
Study predicts space growth in northern Sweden: A recent study estimates that the space cluster in and around the city of Kiruna in northern Sweden could double in size to reach a total of 50-70 actors and 1,000 employed in 10-15 years. The conclusion is based on an analysis of the cluster’s recent development, its location and conditions, as well as on global trends in the space industry. The study was initiated and financed by the regional space development program RIT2021, which involves all major space organizations in northern Sweden, and carried out by the business development agency LTU Business. The aim was to estimate the expected growth of Sweden’s northernmost space cluster over the coming 10-15 years. Given the conditions and the recent progress, and when compared to other nations and space clusters, the study estimates that the Kiruna space cluster could grow to double its current size in just 10-15 years, reaching twice the number of organizations and people employed. LTU Business, who carried out the study, expects a healthy growth of additional startups as well as more mid-sized companies and possibly another tier 1 company seeking to establish themselves in the area. The study highlights three key strengths when assessing the space cluster’s potential: the location, the infrastructure, and the already established ecosystem of actors. The region is huge, 150 000 square kilometers, and sparsely populated. It provides a big unpopulated testing and impact area with very little air traffic, which is rare in Europe. The northern location at 67°N makes it favorable to launch and communicate with polar satellites and to study space and atmospheric phenomenon such as northern lights. Despite the size of the area and how sparsely populated it is, the infrastructure is well developed. The Gulf Stream makes the weather mild and there are cities with airports and public transportation. The region provides opportunities for new establishments and expansions, in cities like Kiruna and elsewhere in the region. Finally, the space cluster has a well-established ecosystem of organizations and international collaboration. With big actors like the Swedish Institute of Space Physics, the Swedish Space Corporation and Luleå University of Technology there is already advanced test, research and launch infrastructure in place.
Tomorrow’s forecaster taking shape: It is six metres high, more than three metres wide, and weighs just over a tonne, and it forms the backbone of the new, second generation of polar-orbiting weather satellites. The structure for the first “B” satellite of the MetOp Second Generation (MetOp-SG) series has arrived at Airbus’ satellite integration centre in Friedrichshafen (Germany). By November 2022, the satellite should be ready to be delivered for its environmental test campaign during which it will be verified under space-like conditions. The MetOp-SG programme is being implemented by the European Space Agency in collaboration with EUMETSAT. The MetOp-SG satellite fleet consists of six satellites and will secure the continuation of meteorological observations from a polar orbit in the 2024-2045 timeframe. Comprehensive data from the suite of innovative European instruments will feed into forecasting models bringing observations to a new standard. Numerical weather prediction at regional and global levels will benefit from the satellite programme. MetOp-SG will provide enhanced infrared, microwave, and radio-occultation soundings of temperature and humidity; polar atmospheric motion vectors extracted from optical imagery; novel precipitation and cloud measurements from imagers in the optical, sub-millimetre and microwave spectra; and high-resolution ocean surface wind-vector and soil moisture measurements extracted from scatterometer observations. MetOp-SG comprises two series of satellites, with three units in each series. The Satellite A series carries optical instruments and atmospheric sounders, while the Satellite B series accommodates microwave instruments. Both types are based on Airbus Defence and Space’s Astrobus high-power satellite platforms. While the Satellite A series is being developed and built under the industrial lead of Airbus in Toulouse (France), the design and manufacture of the Satellite B series is led by the company’s Friedrichshafen site in Germany. Airbus leads an industrial consortium comprising more than 110 companies in 16 European countries and Canada, to supply more than 160 different pieces of equipment and services for the satellites’ platforms and instruments. Each satellite, with a launch mass of approximately 4 tonnes, will be launched separately. The satellites will be placed on the MetOp sun-synchronous polar orbit, at an average altitude of 831 kilometres. The nominal service life of each satellite is 7.5 years. After seven years, the subsequent satellite of the same series will be launched, ensuring full operational coverage over a period of 21 years with a pair of A and B type satellites always in orbit. The first launch of a MetOp-SG satellite is currently scheduled for early 2024.