How a NASA Team Turned a Smartphone into a Satellite Business

Two of the 28 Planet Labs Dove satellites that make up the Flock 1 constellation are seen launching into orbit from the International Space Station on Feb. 11. (Credit: NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Satellites aren’t small or cheap. The Solar Dynamics Observatory launched by NASA in 2010 weighs about 6,800 pounds and cost $850 million to build and put into orbit.

Even the satellites built under NASA’s Discovery Program, aimed at encouraging development of low-cost spacecraft, still have price tags beyond the reach of smaller companies or research organizations: one such satellite, the sun-particle collecting Genesis, ran up $164 million in expenses despite its modest design and mission.

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CubeSats: Shaping Possibilities in Space

CubeSats STMSat-1, CADRE and MinXSS are deployed from the International Space Station during Expedition 47. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — For more than a decade, CubeSats, or small satellites, have paved the way to low-Earth orbit for commercial companies, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations. These small satellites offer opportunities to conduct scientific investigations and technology demonstrations in space in such a way that is cost-effective, timely and relatively easy to accomplish.

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Google Sells Terra Bella to Planet Labs

SAN FRANCISCO (Planet Labs PR) — Planet Labs is thrilled to announce that we have entered into an agreement with Google, wherein Planet will acquire the Terra Bella business including the SkySat constellation of satellites, and Google upon closing, will enter into a multi-year contract to purchase Earth-imaging data from Planet.

I can speak for everyone at Planet when I say that we’re incredibly excited about this opportunity. We’ve long admired what the team at Terra Bella has achieved and we think the SkySat constellation of 7 high resolution satellites is highly complementary to Planet’s existing medium resolution 60-satellite fleet. The former enable regular, rapidly updated snapshots of select areas of the globe at sub-meter resolution; the latter regular, global coverage at 3-5 meter resolution. The two systems under one roof will be truly unique and will enable valuable new capabilities.

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A Closer Look at Which Space Companies U.S. VC’s are Investing in

Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)
Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

NASA’s new publication, “Economic Development of Low Earth Orbit,” consists of a series of papers that examines a number of important policy questions that will be of rising importance as NASA transitions human spaceflight in LEO to the private sector.

One of the papers, “Venture Capital Activity in the Low-Earth Orbit Sector,”
has detailed information on what U.S. venture capitalists have invested in. Key excerpts from the paper follow.
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Orbital Insight Announces $20 Million Investment

Orbital_Insight_logoPALO ALTO, Calif., Jun 27, 2016 (Orbital Insight PR) – Orbital Insight, a geospatial big data company, today announced its $15 million Series B round led by GV (formerly Google Ventures), with participation from CME Ventures, and existing investors Sequoia Capital, Lux Capital, and Bloomberg Beta. Together with an investment and development agreement from In-Q-Tel (IQT), this investment adds $20 million to the company’s funding.

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Space Angels Network Opposes Use of Surplus ICBMs to Launch Commercial Satellites

A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)
A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)

The Space Angels Network has sent the following letter opposing the use of surplus ICBMs for the launching of commercial satellites to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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How a NASA Team Turned a Smartphone into Planet Labs

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)
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)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Satellites aren’t small or cheap. The Solar Dynamics Observatory launched by NASA in 2010 weighs about 6,800 pounds and cost $850 million to build and put into orbit.

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Mooreland Partners Advises Planet Labs on Its Acquisition of BlackBridge Companies

moreland_partners1SAN FRANCISCO , October 16, 2015 (Moreland Partners PR) — Mooreland Partners the leading independent investment bank providing M&A and capital raising services to the global technology industry, today announced that it acted as the exclusive financial advisor to Planet Labs on its cross-border acquisition of Canadian-based BlackBridge Geomatics Corp., BlackBridge S.à.r.l. and BlackBridge, LLC, including the German RapidEye satellite constellation and the RapidEye imagery archive. The acquisition closed in September 2015. Terms were not disclosed. The acquisition helps Planet Labs expand quickly into new market segments and gain access to a robust imagery archive.

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Planet Labs Adds Pixar Vet to Board of Directors

planet_labs_logoPlanet Labs has added Ann Mather as the first independent member of its Board of Directors. Will Marshall wrote on the company’s website:

Ann brings to Planet a wealth of experience and knowledge from decades spent with some of the world’s most dynamic companies. She currently serves on the boards of Google, Netflix , MGM, Shutterfly, and Arista Networks, and formerly served as CFO at Pixar.

“The breadth and scope of Planet’s mission is staggering, and the humanitarian and commercial impact of daily, global imaging is ground-breaking. I absolutely believe in the vision of Will and his team and I couldn’t be more excited to join them for this unprecedented journey,” Mather said.

Prior to Pixar, Ann held executive positions at production studio Village Roadshow Pictures, The Walt Disney Company, and Buena Vista Theatrical Division.

ISS National Lab Experiments Arrive at Station

casis_new_logoKENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL, August 24, 2015 (CASIS PR) – The most recent series of payloads sponsored by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) successfully berthed to the International Space Station (ISS) onboard the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-5). CASIS is tasked with managing and promoting research onboard the ISS U.S. National Laboratory.

These ISS National Lab payloads have been delivered in coordination with payload services provider, NanoRacks LLC, a private sector company that operates the only commercial research facility aboard the ISS via a Space Act agreement with NASA. Sponsored payloads that berthed to the ISS on this recent mission include:
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SpaceWorks Review Finds Sharp Increase in Smallsat Launches

SpaceWorks_nano_microsat_2014
Excerpts From
2015 Small Satellite Market Observations
Full Presentation

Developed by:

Ms. Elizabeth Buchen
Director, Engineering Economics Group
SpaceWorks Enterprises, Inc. (SEI)
Atlanta, GA

2014

SpaceWorks’ 2014 Projection estimated between 140 and 143 nano/microsatellites across all sectors would launch globally in 2014; 158 nano/microsatellites were actually launched. This represented an increase of nearly 72% compared to 2013.

2015+

In 2014, 107 commercial nano/microsatellites (1-50 kg) launched and thousands of commercial small satellites (101-500 kg) are planned for launch over the next fifteen years. Recent multi-million and multi-billion dollar investments in various ventures confirm the commercial sector’s continued interest in the nano/microsatellite and small satellite industries.
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Planet Labs Awards Multiple Ground Station Antenna Systems Contract to L-3 Datron

planet_labs_logoSIMI VALLEY, Calif., 10 August 2015 (L-3 Datron PR) — Planet Labs selected L-3 Datron Advanced Technologies for their Ground Network Antenna Systems to collect fresh data from any place on Earth. Planet Labs has built the world’s largest constellation of global imaging satellites, and aims to image the entire Earth every day.

Kevin Meissner, Program Manager, Planet Labs, said: “L-3 Datron was one of the few companies who could meet our cost and performance targets, and their team displayed a remarkable level of expertise and enthusiasm. L-3 Datron’s demonstrated ability to deliver high-quality products on aggressive schedules made them the best choice for Planet Labs.”

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Planetary Resources, Planet Labs Launching Satellites Aboard Dragon

The asteroid mining company Planetary Resources is launching its first test satellite aboard a SpaceX Dragon resupply ship today. The Arkyd 3 Reflight (A3R) satellite will test out technologies for the company’s future spacecraft. It will be launched from the International Space Station at a later date.

The first Arkyd test satellite was lost when Orbital Sciences’ Antares launch vehicle exploded shortly after liftoff in October. The spacecraft was aboard a Cygnus resupply ship headed for the space station.

Planet Labs is sending up 14 more of its Dove remote sensing spacecraft aboard the mission. They are being launched as secondary payloads.