Curious Planeteer working to make the Earth's changes visible, accessible and actionable.

There Goes the Satellite


I work in satellite operations—my official title at Planet is “Flock Shepherd”. Part of my job is to help commission our Dove satellites as they enter space, and monitor their health and operations during their life cycle in orbit.

Fourteen Doves were deployed from the International Space Station the week of July 13, 2015—we call these Doves “Flock 1e”. They were deployed two-by-two from the Kibo Experiment Module arm of the International Space Station by a Nanoracks deployer. We’ve contacted all fourteen satellites and they’re all happy and healthy. This week we’re wrapping up our commissioning activities and getting some exciting new images down from our latest and greatest flock of Doves.

Here at Planet, I see pictures from space every day, but I rarely see video of our Doves in space. A cosmonaut captured this video of our recent Flock 1e deployment from the window of the International Space Station while other crew members looked on:

Two Doves from Flock 1e are deployed from the ISS on July 13, 2015.

From a cosmonaut’s point of view, our Doves slowly tumble away into space. The relative speed between our Doves and the ISS is only about one meter per second. This gentle push from the ISS actually puts the Dove in a slightly lower orbit than the space station. In reality, both the ISS and our Doves are traveling over 7 kilometers per second!

The Russian crew member’s commentary in the video roughly translates to: “There goes the satellite! Okay, now we’ll take a look from the other window to see them…there they are. Excellent!”

I can say that this round of deploys truly was excellent. During the next week, Flock 1e will start to capture imagery, and beam it into our data pipeline. Big thanks to NASA and Nanoracks for coordinating the deployments!