PSLV Launches 88 Planet Dove Satellites

In February 2014, Planet Labs Inc. launched its first flock of Dove nanosatellites into space. Shown are two shoebox-sized Doves being ejected into low-Earth orbit from the International Space Station. The company’s goal is for the flock to take a high-resolution snapshot of nearly the entire globe every 24 hours. (Credit: NASA)

SAN FRANCISCO (Planet PR) — Today Planet successfully launched 88 Dove satellites to orbit—the largest satellite constellation ever to reach orbit. This is not just a launch (or a world record, for that matter!); for our team this is a major milestone. With these satellites in orbit, Planet will reach its Mission 1: the ability to image all of Earth’s landmass every day.

Tonight is the culmination of a huge effort over the past 5 years. In 2011 we set ourselves the audacious mission of imaging the entire Earth land area every day. We were convinced that armed with such data, humanity would be able to have a significant positive impact on many of the world’s greatest challenges. We calculated that it would take between 100-150 satellites to achieve this, and we started building them. After today’s launch, Planet operates 144 satellites in orbit. We have reached our milestone.

It’s taken a minor Apollo project to get here! Behind the scenes we’ve miniaturized satellites; learned how to manufacture them at scale; constructed the world’s second largest private network of ground stations; custom built an automated mission control system; created a massive data pipeline able to process the vast amount of imagery we collect; and developed a software platform that lets customers, researchers, governments and NGOs access imagery quickly. Each of these has been a significant undertaking in and of itself—and together it represents a major systems engineering project. This is not to mention the non-engineering efforts from raising capital, receiving regulatory licenses, booking launches, and building a base of hundreds of partners that use the data to solve their needs.

Without a doubt, the single largest driver behind this record-breaking success is the unrelenting dedication of the Planet team. We’ve been humbled by them for the last five years and we thank them today.

Next up: getting this data to our customers and to those who need it the most! But for now Planet is having a great start to the year worthy of a little celebration.

—Will & Robbie

Here are some additional facts and figures regarding this launch:

  • The 88 Dove satellites (collectively known as “Flock 3p”) rode aboard a PSLV rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India
  • This leads to two world records: a record for the most satellites ever launched on a single rocket; and a record for the largest private satellite constellation in history, totaling 149 satellites in all
  • This is our 15th launch of Dove satellites and second aboard India’s PSLV. The launch of Flock 3p comes off the successful launch of Flock 2p on the PSLV in June 2016
  • After deployment, all 88 satellites will be autonomously commissioned in batches. We expect Flock 3p to enter normal imaging operations in about three months
  • Each of the Flock 3p satellites—our 13th build—sports a 200 mbps downlink speed and is capable of collecting over 2 million km² per day

  • WhoAmI

    Until recently, I didn’t realize the progress Planet Labs has made in miniaturization and mass manufacturing of satellites. I wonder if this can be expanded and utilized by NASA for deep space missions.

  • JamesG

    Lots of Wall St. money can buy a lot. Actually Planet uses mostly nominally COTS components in the “dove” sats. It is just that electronics have gotten so miniaturized and ruggedized, and aerospace materials so readily available, that such small, disposable sats are economically viable. NASA will eventually adopt the same, but they are not as fast as people doing things “The Silicon-Valley Way”.