On June 13, 2020, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully lofted three of Planet’s high-resolution imaging SkySats along with a batch of its Starlink communications satellites. SkySats 16, 17 and 18 were successfully deployed into a drop-off orbit of 205 x 380 km, 53 degree inclination. Planet’s launch operations team has successfully acquired all three satellites and started performing operational checkouts. Over the next several weeks they will use their onboard propulsion to boost themselves up to their operational orbit of 400 km circular altitude.
These three new SkySats join the 15 others already in orbit and expand our capacity to provide world class, high resolution images to a variety of governmental, commercial, academic and non-profit organizations.
With shelter-in-place orders still in effect, the Planet team watched the launch livestream from the comfort and safety of their homes, making pancake feasts to continue Planet’s launch pancakes tradition.
SkySats 19, 20 and 21 will follow closely on the heels of today’s successful launch and join another Starlink launch scheduled this summer. Although the Falcon 9 rocket was equipped with the capacity for all six SkySats in a single launch (and then some), the SkySats were intentionally split across two launches so that they could be deployed into offset planes, optimizing for maximum coverage and revisit time over key regions. Stay tuned for more launch and commissioning updates as things progress.