RapidEye image of Akaroa, New Zealand © 2018, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Curious Planeteer working to make the Earth's changes visible, accessible and actionable.

A Toast on the 10th Anniversary of the RapidEye Constellation in Orbit


Early in the morning on August 28, 2008, in the middle of the desert in Kazakhstan, five RapidEye small satellites launched into orbit aboard a Dnepr rocket. Today, we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of that momentous launch – a feat that opened a new era of Earth observation.

While today people may grasp that there are hundreds of small satellites orbiting the Earth taking pictures of our planet, it’s incredible to think that just ten years ago, the concept of small satellites was largely unproven and unknown.

Traditional satellites, about the size of a large truck, were capable of imaging the Earth at medium- to low-resolution about once every five to 10 days. RapidEye satellites, about the size of small dishwasher and weighing only 150 kilograms, were capable of imaging places on Earth on a daily basis. The RapidEye constellation truly blazed the trail for Planet’s daily monitoring mission.

When Planet acquired the RapidEye constellation in 2015, we gained access to a rich archive of six years of global imagery – six billion square kilometers at 5-meter resolution – allowing us to bring one of the largest commercial satellite imagery datasets to the web.

Although originally designed for a lifetime of seven years, the RapidEye constellation has been operational over the past 10 years without interruption. Here are just a few interesting facts from the constellation over its lifetime:

  • RapidEye satellites have orbited the Earth more than 270,000 times
  • RapidEye satellites have traveled a distance of nearly 12,490,000,000 kilometers – which is over 85 times the distance between the Earth and the sun.
  • The RapidEye constellation has taken more than 660,000 pictures of Earth’s total landmass, which is equal to more than 15 billion square kilometers of imagery data.

Happy 10th birthday and cheers to our RapidEye constellation for their faithful service in our mission to make global change visible, accessible, and actionable!