Planet is set to launch three more new SkySats (SkySats 19-21) into Low Earth Orbit on August 18th (date subject to change), rounding out the fleet of SkySats already in operations and joining SkySats 16-18 that successfully launched aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 in June.
Planet SkySats 1-15 operate in Sun Synchronous Orbits, a specific type of Low Earth Orbit that results in the Earth’s surface always being illuminated by the Sun at the same angle when the satellite is capturing imagery. Half of the SkySats currently pass overhead in a morning crossing plane, while the other half moves in an afternoon crossing plane, so together they provide the twice-daily coverage of anywhere on Earth.
Both sets of new SkySats, 16-18 and 19-21, will operate in a “mid-inclination” orbit of 53 degrees that complements the sun synchronous fleet, and will offer more targeted coverage and imaging capacity in the latitude bands between +53 degrees and -53 degrees where the majority of human activity occurs. By taking advantage of SpaceX’s rideshare program, we were able to get these satellites launched much faster compared to a dedicated launch. In addition, by splitting the payload across two launches, we’re able to phase the mid-inclination SkySats into their respective planes much faster as well, all of which results in Planet’s customers benefiting from these enhanced products much sooner than any other provider can offer.
SkySats 19-21 will be launched aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9, a two-stage reusable rocket that has successfully flown satellites and cargo over 80 times to orbit. They will do so as rideshare payloads on SpaceX’s Starlink satellites, and will launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida.
The rapid launch of SkySats 16-21, as well as the development of our enhanced 50 cm imagery, are just a few examples of how Planet continues to push the envelope to provide industry-leading geospatial offerings that continuously improve over time.