The Past Week in Launches: SpaceX & China Launch Twice, a Soyuz Rideshare and India Falls Short

Small Satellite Launch Vehicle lifts off on maiden flight. (Credit: ISRO)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

During the past week, SpaceX launched 98 Starlink satellites, a Chinese commercial launch provider made it three in a row, Russia launched a rideshare mission with an Iranian satellite aboard, and India’s new small satellite launcher fell just short of orbit.

There have been 103 orbital launches worldwide, with 99 successes and four failures.

Let’s take a closer look at the last week in launch.

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NOAA Contracts with Planet to Gain Situational Awareness of Oil Spills, Marine Debris, and Marine Life

SAN FRANCISCO (Planet Labs PBC PR)Planet Labs PBC (NYSE: PL), a leading provider of daily data and insights about Earth, today announced a new contract with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The organization is leveraging Planet’s PlanetScope and SkySat products to evaluate oil spills, track marine debris, detect vessels, and identify large marine mammals like whales.

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BlackSky Wins $4.4 Million IARPA Contract to Provide Advanced Artificial Intelligence for Space-Based Dynamic Monitoring

Company’s unique Spectra AI machine-learning platform accelerates application of SMART technologies for automated recognition of strategic activity and change

HERNDON, Va. (BlackSky Technology Inc. PR) — BlackSky Technology Inc. (NYSE: BKSY) received a $4.4 million award from the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) to support the second phase of the multi-year Space-based Machine Automated Recognition Technique (SMART) Program.

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Following the Success of the Inaugural flight, Arianespace to Start Operations of Vega C with Seven Launchers Already Sold

Vega-C lifts off on its maiden flight on July 13, 2022. (Credit: Arianespace)
  • Following the success of its inaugural flight, Vega C will now begin its operational phase, under the responsibility of Arianespace, with a target of at least four launches per year and a fast-growing backlog that already includes 7 launches and 10 auxiliary payloads.
  • Vega C is an upgrade to the Vega launcher and can better answer institutional and commercial customers’ needs. Thanks to its increased capabilities, Vega C will serve the burgeoning Earth observation market as well as long-term institutional and commercial needs.
  • The first commercial launch of Vega C is scheduled in November 2022. The flight, designated VV22, will deliver Pléiades Neo 5 and 6, a pair of satellites wholly funded, manufactured and operated by Airbus.

KOUROU, French Guiana (Arianespace PR) — On Wednesday, July 13 at 10:13 am local time in Kourou, French Guiana, the first Vega C, the new European launcher designed and manufactured by AVIO, was successfully launched under the supervision of ESA from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana (South America).

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Planet Signs Contract to Provide German Federal Agencies With Daily Satellite Imagery

Applications range from crisis management, civil and public safety support to environmental and nature conservation as well as forest and agricultural monitoring

BERLIN & SAN FRANCISCO (Planet Labs PBC PR) — Planet Labs PBC, a leading provider of daily data and insights about Earth, today announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, Planet Labs Germany GmbH, has signed a new contract with the German Federal Agency for Cartography and Geodesy (BKG) to provide the agency with daily, high-resolution satellite data for crisis response, environmental and nature conservation, as well as forest and agricultural monitoring. Access to Planet’s satellite data will help the BKG promote public and civil safety throughout the Federal Republic of Germany. The collaboration was launched in November 2021 and is now being expanded following a successful trial period.

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TurbineHub and Planet Labs PBC Partner to Provide US Wind Energy Insights for the Asset and Investment Management Communities

VAIL, Colo. (TurbineHub PR) — TurbineHub‘s United States, wind-energy-focused data and geospatial SaaS, today announced the availability of Planet Labs PBC’s (Planet /NYSE: PL) medium resolution satellite data through TurbineHub’s service. Planet is a leading provider of global, near-daily satellite imagery and geospatial solutions. Through TurbineHub’s imagery analysis service, developers can access Planet’s satellite imagery to better inform their wind energy investment decisions.

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Sierra Space Partners with Turkish Space Agency and ESEN Sistem Entegrasyon on Low-Earth Orbit, Lunar and Astronaut Programs

Habitat rendering (Credit: SNC)

LOUISVILLE, Colo., June 29, 2022 (Sierra Space PR) – Sierra Space, a leading commercial space company at the forefront of creating and building the future of space transportation and infrastructure for low-Earth orbit (LEO) commercialization, the Turkish Space Agency and ESEN Sistem Entegrasyon (ESEN) announced today the signing of a new Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC). The three parties will combine efforts on Sierra’s Space’s low-Earth orbit, lunar and astronaut programs.

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Telespazio and BlackSky Strengthen Global Partnership

  • Newly signed reseller agreement enables Telespazio’s companies worldwide to commercialize BlackSky products and services
  • Telespazio Group to enrich its Geoinformation offering with BlackSky’s dynamic, high-resolution, high-revisit imagery

ROME, 24 June 2022 (Telespazio PR) — Telespazio, a joint venture between Leonardo (67%) and Thales (33%), has signed an updated global, non-exclusive reseller agreement with BlackSky (NYSE: BKSY) enabling Telespazio Group to make BlackSky geospatial products and services commercially available to customers world-wide.

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BRICS Nations Form Joint Committee on Space Cooperation

BEIJING (China Ministry of Foreign Affairs PR) — On May 25, the 1st meeting of the BRICS Joint Committee on Space Cooperation was successfully held virtually, marking the official establishment of the BRICS Joint Committee on Space Cooperation and opening the new chapter for joint observation and data sharing cooperation of BRICS Remote Sensing Satellite Constellation (RSSC).

Mr. ZHANG Kejian, Administrator of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), served as the chairman of the Joint Committee this year. Mr. Carlos Augusto Teixeira de Moura, President of the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB), Mr. Dmitry Rogozin, Director General of the State Space Corporation “Roscosmos”(ROSCOSMOS), Mr. Somanath S. , Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, and Mr. Hendrik Burger, Representative of the South African National Space Agency, attended the meeting.

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BlackSky Reports $20 Million First Quarter Net Loss on $13.9 Million in Revenues

  • Record Q1 Revenue, up 91% Compared to Prior Year Period
  • Imagery and Software Analytical Services Revenue Grew to 70% of Total Revenue

HERNDON, Va. (BlackSky PR) — BlackSky Technology Inc. (“BlackSky” or the “Company”) (NYSE: BKSY), a leading provider of real-time geospatial intelligence and global monitoring, today announced its results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2022.

First Quarter Financial Highlights:

  • Record revenue of $13.9 million, up 91% from prior year period
  • Imagery & software analytical services revenue improves 63% over prior year’s quarter
  • Net loss of $20.0 million
  • Adjusted EBITDA (1) loss of $9.5 million
  • Cash balance at the end of March 2022 was $138.4 million
  • Capital expenditures of $13.4 million
(1) Non-GAAP financial measure. See “Non-GAAP Financial Measures” below and reconciliation table at the end of this release.
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Luokung Launches Holographic Spatial-Temporal Product and Service Offerings for Natural Resource Monitoring and Carbon Sink Accounting

BEIJING (Luokung Technology Corp. PR) — Luokung Technology Corp. (NASDAQ: LKCO) (“Luokung” or the “Company”), a leading spatial-temporal intelligent big data services company and provider of interactive location-based services (“LBS”) and high-definition maps (“HD Maps”) in China, recently announced the launch of its remote sensing holographic spatial-temporal portfolio of products and services (the “Luokung Remote Sensing Offerings”) offered by its affiliate, Luokung Remote Sensing Co., Ltd., for natural resource monitoring and carbon sink accounting at the recently held Second Spatial Information Smart Application for High Quality Development in the New Era Summit (the “Summit”), hosted by the China Association of Remote Sensing Application.

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NOAA to Study New Technologies for Future Satellite Products, Services

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — NOAA plans to release three Broad Agency Announcements, or BAAs, that may lead to a review of advanced technologies for its future satellite and ground architecture, products and services.  

The BAAs – and the studies that will result – are part of NOAA’s Office of System Architecture and Advanced Planning (OSAAP) Joint Venture Program. Joint Venture examines the feasibility of partnering with other federal agencies, the academic community, or the commercial sector to develop promising innovative research and technology to meet NOAA’s future observational, product and service needs.

Specifically, the BAAs will explore technologies for: 

  • Measuring hyper-spectral microwave remote sensing observations;
  • Measuring 3-D atmospheric wind profiles; and 
  • Developing a digital twin system for Earth observations using Artificial Intelligence

These emerging technologies are to be investigated for their value in enhancing a variety of NOAA’s systems including Numerical Weather Prediction and satellite ground processing. The BAAs are a critical first step in assessing possibilities for the future and not tied to a particular mission or end need.

The BAAs will be posted on the federal contracts opportunities website: SAM.gov. Following the release of the BAAs there will be a Community Day for all interested parties as announced in the BAA. Based on the responses to the BAAs, NOAA will choose the best options to pursue.

Planet Unveils Details About Next-generation Pelican Satellite Constellation

SAN FRANCISCO (Planet Labs PR) — Planet Labs PBC (NYSE: PL), a leading provider of daily data and insights about Earth, today unveiled details about plans for Pelican, its next-generation satellite constellation, which was previously announced at Planet Explore 2021. Pelican is designed to rapidly capture changing events as they unfold and to provide a leap forward in capabilities for Planet customers – from higher revisit frequency and higher spatial resolution, to faster data access and delivery and real-time analytics. The program is under current development on-site at Planet’s in-house design and manufacturing facility.

“We are seeing strong and growing demand from multiple market segments for our high resolution products today. We have designed our next generation ‘Pelican’ fleet to meet the evolving needs of customers who want real-time information about global events as they unfold – from floods and wildfires to political conflicts and threats to human rights. Pelican’s rapid response and higher resolution will do exactly that,” said Planet’s Co-Founder and CEO Will Marshall.

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RIT Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing Lab teams with Rendered.ai to power synthetic data with high accuracy sensor simulation

Example of simulated single band satellite image output created in DIRSIG that will be available through Rendered.ai. (image Credit: RIT DIRS Laboratory.ai)

The effort will enable US customers to use the DIRSIG™ model with Rendered.ai’s cloud capabilities to generate Earth Observation datasets for AI training

BELLEVUE, Wash. and ROCHESTER, N.Y. (Rendered.ai PR) — Rendered.ai, the leading platform for physics-based synthetic data, and the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing (DIRS) Laboratory today announced a collaboration to combine the physics-driven accuracy of the DIRSIG synthetic imagery model with Rendered.ai’s cloud-based platform for high volume synthetic data generation.

Machine Learning (ML) algorithms using Computer Vision (CV) data provide a key tool for exploiting the rapidly expanding capability and content of Earth Observations (EO) collection and analytics companies around the world. Rendered.ai provides a platform as a service (PaaS) for data scientists and CV engineers to scalably produce large, configurable synthetic CV datasets in the cloud for training Artificial Intelligence (AI) and ML systems.

The DIRSIG model produces a range of simulated output representing passive single-band, multi-spectral, or hyper-spectral imagery from the visible through the thermal infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum. DIRSIG is widely used to test algorithms and to train analysts on simulated standard imagery products. The Rendered.ai team has built simulators for visible light and synthetic aperture radar (SAR), however DIRSIG’s breadth of capability and ongoing investment by granting agencies will provide qualified Rendered.ai customers a much wider range of field-tested and production-quality sensor modeling technology.

“DIRSIG has been providing synthetic imagery to expert customers for decades,” said Scott Brown, Ph.D., principal scientist and project lead. “Our collaboration with Rendered.ai enables us to bring our proven capability to a wider audience at a time when satellite and other forms of remote sensing data collection are rapidly expanding.”

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Australian Firms Team Up to Deliver High-Resolution Hyperspectral Earth Observation Microsatellites

Adam Gilmour, CEO & Founder, Gilmour Space (L), and Venkat Pillay, CEO & Founder, LatConnect 60 (R), announce an agreement at the 2022 Space Symposium. (Image Credit: LatConnect 60, 2022 Space Symposium)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (LatConnect 60 PR) – LatConnect 60 (LC60), an Earth observation and data fusion company based in Perth, Australia, has signed an agreement to work with Gilmour Space Technologies in Queensland to build and launch the first microsatellite in a planned high-resolution hyperspectral imaging constellation. The smart satellites will be placed in 30-degree inclined orbits for frequent revisit data capture over the Earth’s equatorial and mid-latitude regions.

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