New Startups Watching Us From Space

Silicon Valley startups are vying for eyes in the skies.

The intention is to open up satellite imagery and footage to commercial interests, as well as turn ‘big data’ collected from satellites into meaningful insights.  Some examples these companies cite include… real-time monitoring of freight / logistics, capturing the impact of natural disasters, fire, flood and being able to assist coordinating humanitarian efforts.

So how do these startups rise up to each other…

Urthecast-Logo

URTHECAST

Planet-Labs-Logo

PLANET LABS

Skybox-Logo

SKYBOX IMAGING

Founded

2010

2010

2009

Launch Date

Dec 2013 (pending) – 2 cameras attached to the ISS.

April 2013 – 2 test cubesats launched.

Nov 2013 – 2 cubesats

2014 – 28 cubesats

Nov 2013 – 1 satellite

2014 – 1 satellite

Funding

Public – market cap $130M (CAD)

Private – $65.1M (USD)

Private – $91M (USD)

Format

Live HD Video

Imagery

Live HD Video and Imagery

Employees1

57

38

117

Accurate as of 1/2014

1 Employees on LinkedIn

Urthecast focuses on video services and will offer a free online platform for viewers to ‘live stream’ Earth.  A paid-for premium model will be available for commercial interests.

Urthecast-Iris

(Credit: Twitter @DutchManPaul)

Image – The Urthecast ‘Iris’ camera inside the ISS.  They hit a glitch after installing the cameras to the exterior of the ISS,  there was no signal.  The cameras were immediately removed and taken back inside the station for further analysis.  More news is expected mid-January 2014.

Planet Labs aim to launch the largest ‘flock’ of imaging cubesats, more than 28 in total, making it possible to capture a complete picture of the globe at any given time. It is unclear how they will charge for the data, their website states that they will provide ‘open-information’ to the public.

Planet-Labs-Doves

(Credit: Planet Labs, Inc.)

Image – The flock of ‘Dove’ satellites from Planet Labs, each sat is disposable with a lifespan of one to three years. Planet Labs believe in the ‘power in numbers’ approach… and the advantage of having a renewed fleet every few years.

Skybox Imaging beat Urthecast to the title of world’s first ever ‘live HD video’ when their satellite commenced operation in late December 2013.  Their services boast both video and imagery, as well as a team of data analysts to make sense of all the data flooding in.

Skybox-SkySat-1

(Credit: Skybox Imaging, Inc.)

Image –  Skybox Imaging Sky-Sat 1 in the lab, the ‘mini-fridge’ sized sat went into orbit November 2013.  Their second sat, Sky-Sat 2 is scheduled for a 2014 launch.

Of course, while not a ‘startup’ exactly, we have to send a shout-out to DigitalGlobe who have been in the game since ’92 and have 5 satellites whizzing around us.  Ever heard of Google Maps ??  Yep, well these guys provided the satellite imagery!

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