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HandWiki. SkySat. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 12 April 2024).
HandWiki. SkySat. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed April 12, 2024.
HandWiki. "SkySat" Encyclopedia, (accessed April 12, 2024).
HandWiki. (2022, November 22). SkySat. In Encyclopedia.
HandWiki. "SkySat." Encyclopedia. Web. 22 November, 2022.

SkySat is a constellation of sub-meter resolution Earth observation satellites owned by Planet Labs, providing imagery, high-definition video and analytics services. Planet acquired the satellites with their purchase of Terra Bella (formerly Skybox Imaging), a Mountain View, California-based company founded in 2009 by Dan Berkenstock, Julian Mann, John Fenwick, and Ching-Yu Hu, from Google in 2017.

high-definition video skysat satellites

1. Overview

SkySat image of Apple Park taken in May 2017.
SkySat off-nadir image of Fitz Roy.

The resolution of the SkySat satellite imagery and videos is high enough to observe objects that impact the global economy such as terrain, cars and shipping containers. The satellites can capture video clips lasting up to 90 seconds at 30 frames per second.[1] The high-definition satellite video from SkySat satellites "could help us understand our world better by analyzing movement of goods and people, providing visual data about supply chains, shipping, industrial plant activity, and even humanitarian relief efforts".[1]

The constellation's goal is to be able to provide high-resolution satellite imagery of any place on Earth multiple times a day.[2] When Skybox originally developed the satellites, they planned to "change the nature" of the satellite industry by building satellites with "off-the-shelf" electronics that cost under US$50 million.[3]

2. History

By April 2012, Skybox Imaging had raised a total of US$91 million of private capital from Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Canaan Partners and Norwest Venture Partners to develop the SkySat constellation.[2]

On 21 November 2013, the first satellite, SkySat-1, was launched on a Dnepr rocket from Dombarovsky Air Base, Russia.[4] Less than a month later, on 11 December 2013, the first images captured by the SkySat-1 satellite, of Perth, Abu Dhabi, and the coast of Somalia, were released.[5] The second satellite, SkySat-2, launched on a Soyuz-2/Fregat rocket from Baikonur, Kazakhstan on 8 July 2014.[6] The company plans to eventually launch a fleet of 24 satellites.[7] and released its first images within 48 hours of launch.[8]

On 10 February 2014, SSL announced that Skybox had awarded it a contract to build 13 more satellites based on a revised "SkySat C" design.[9][10] The first of these, Skysat-3, also referred to as SkySat-C1, was launched on 22 June 2016 by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C34.[11][12]

On 10 June 2014, Skybox Imaging announced that it had entered into an agreement to be acquired by Google for US$500 million.[13][14] The acquisition was completed on 1 August 2014.[14][15] Skybox Imaging changed its name to "Terra Bella" on 8 March 2016, to indicate its focus on image analytics.[16] The new name was partially based on the Terra Bella Avenue in Mountain View, California, where the company's headquarters are located.[17] Terra bella is Italian for "beautiful Earth". The name change was also partially due to perceived trademark infringement that came to light in the Google acquisition.

Four more SkySat units were launched on 16 September 2016, by the Vega rocket's seventh flight from Kourou.[18]

In 2017, Google sold Terra Bella and its SkySat satellite constellation to Planet Labs, adding to their existing fleet of around 50 satellites,[19] for an undisclosed price and entered into a multi-year agreement to purchase SkySat imaging data.[20] Planet Labs launched six more SkySat satellites, along with four Dove CubeSats, on a Minotaur-C rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base on 31 October 2017.[21][22] An additional two SkySat satellites and three Dove CubeSats were launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg on 3 December 2018.[23][24]

3. Satellite Constellation

The SkySat satellites are based on the CubeSat concept, using inexpensive automotive grade electronics and fast commercially available processors,[25] but scaled up to approximately the size of a minifridge.[26] The satellites are approximately 80 cm long, compared to approximately 30 cm for a 3U CubeSat, and weigh 220 lbs.[26]

The first two prototype satellites (SkySat-1 and 2) were produced by Skybox Imaging in-house. They did not have a propulsion system.[27]

The other 13 satellites are manufactured by SSL,[28] the optical payloads are built by L3 Technologies,[22][29] and the satellite thrusters are provided by ECAPS.[30] The 13 SkySat-C satellites are slightly larger and heavier (with mass about 120 kg or 264 lbs) than the prototypes. They have a planned operational life of 6 years.[31]

The SkySat-C satellites were put on a 500 km SSO orbit.[31]

Three of Planet's commercial SkySat (SkySat-16, -17 and -18) Earth-imaging spacecraft launched on top of a stack of 58 SpaceX Starlink-8 satellites on 13 June 2020 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket[32], and three more (SkySat-19, -20 and -21) will hitch a ride on another SpaceX mission in July 2020. Built by Maxar Technologies, each of the SkySat satellites weighs around 110 kg at launch. The SkySats are about the size of a mini-refrigerator, and their optical instruments produce images of Earth with a resolution of 50 cm, according to Planet.[33]

4. List of Satellites

There have been 18 satellites launched.

Name Alt name COSPAR Date of launch Rocket Launch site Refs
SkySat-1   COSPAR 2013-066C 21 November 2013 Dnepr Dombarovsky Air Base, Russia [27]
SkySat-2   COSPAR 2014-037D 8 July 2014 Soyuz-2.1b Baikonur, Kazakhstan [27]
SkySat-3 SkySat-C1
SkySat Gen2-1
COSPAR 2016-040C 22 June 2016 PSLV-XL C34 SHAR, Sriharikota, India [31]
SkySat-4 SkySat-C2 COSPAR 2016-058D 16 September 2016 Vega Centre Spatial Guyanais, Kourou [31]
SkySat-5 SkySat-C3 COSPAR 2016-058E 16 September 2016 Vega Centre Spatial Guyanais, Kourou [31]
SkySat-6 SkySat-C4 COSPAR 2016-058B 16 September 2016 Vega Centre Spatial Guyanais, Kourou [31]
SkySat-7 SkySat-C5 COSPAR 2016-058C 16 September 2016 Vega Centre Spatial Guyanais, Kourou [31]
SkySat-8 SkySat-C6 COSPAR 2017-068F 31 October 2017 Minotaur-C 3210 Vandenberg Air Force Base [31]
SkySat-9 SkySat-C7 COSPAR 2017-068E 31 October 2017 Minotaur-C 3210 Vandenberg Air Force Base [31]
SkySat-10 SkySat-C8 COSPAR 2017-068D 31 October 2017 Minotaur-C 3210 Vandenberg Air Force Base [31]
SkySat-11 SkySat-C9 COSPAR 2017-068C 31 October 2017 Minotaur-C 3210 Vandenberg Air Force Base [31]
SkySat-12 SkySat-C10 COSPAR 2017-068B 31 October 2017 Minotaur-C 3210 Vandenberg Air Force Base [31]
SkySat-13 SkySat-C11 COSPAR 2017-068A 31 October 2017 Minotaur-C 3210 Vandenberg Air Force Base [31]
SkySat-14 SkySat-C12 COSPAR 2018-099AR 3 December 2018 Falcon 9 Block 5 Vandenberg Air Force Base [31]
SkySat-15 SkySat-C13 COSPAR 2018-099AW 3 December 2018 Falcon 9 Block 5 Vandenberg Air Force Base [31]
SkySat-16 SkySat-C14 COSPAR 2020-038A 13 June 2020 Falcon 9 Block 5 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station , SLC-40 [31]
SkySat-17 SkySat-C15 COSPAR 2020-038B 13 June 2020 Falcon 9 Block 5 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station , SLC-40 [31]
SkySat-18 SkySat-C16 COSPAR 2020-038C 13 June 2020 Falcon 9 Block 5 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station , SLC-40 [31]


  1. Wogan, David (30 December 2013). "High-definition video from space is available for purchase finally.". Scientific American. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  2. Burns, Matt (17 April 2012). "Skybox Imaging Raises US$70M To Launch Two High-Res Imaging Microsatellites". TechCrunch. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  3. Truong, Alice (11 December 2013). "Proof That Cheaper Satellites Still Can Take Incredibly Detailed Photos of Earth". Fast Company. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  4. Clark, Stephen. "Silo-launched Dnepr rocket delivers 32 satellites to space". Website. Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  5. Truong, Alice. "Proof That Cheaper Satellites Still Can Take Incredibly Detailed Photos Of Earth". Website. Fast Company. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  6. Hearn, Mark. "Skybox Imaging successfully launches its SkySat-2 Earth observation satellite". Website. 9to5Google. Retrieved 8 July 2014. 
  7. Eisenberg, Anne (10 August 2013). "Microsatellites: What Big Eyes They Have". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  8. Henry, Caleb. "Skybox Imaging Releases First Images from SkySat 2". Website. Satellite Today. Retrieved 11 July 2014. 
  9. "Skybox Imaging Selects SSL To Build 13 Low Earth Orbit Imaging Satellites". 10 February 2014. Retrieved 11 August 2016. 
  10. "Terra Bella Evaluating Launches for Eight SkySats by 2017". Satellite Today. Access Intelligence. 6 April 2016. Retrieved 11 August 2016. 
  11. "SkySat-3 First Light". Terra Bella Blog. Google, Inc.. 28 June 2016. Retrieved 11 August 2016. 
  12. "International Assortment of Satellites lifted by Indian PSLV Rocket". 22 June 2016. Retrieved 11 August 2016. 
  13. "Alphabet Investor Relations". 9 June 2014. Retrieved 11 August 2016. 
  14. "Skybox Imaging + Google". 8 June 2014. Retrieved 29 June 2016. 
  15. Henry, Caleb (2014-08-05). "Google Closes Skybox Imaging Purchase". Retrieved 2014-08-10. 
  16. Lardinois, Frederic (8 March 2016). "Google renames its satellite startup, Skybox Imaging, to Terra Bella and adds focus on image analysis". TechCrunch (AOL Inc.). Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  17. Protalinski, Emil (8 March 2016). "Google rebrands Skybox as Terra Bella, will launch "more than a dozen satellites" over the next few years". VentureBeat. Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  18. Clark, Stephen (16 September 2016). "Vega rocket hauls up quintet of Earth observation satellites". Spaceflight Now. 
  19. "Google selling Terra Bella satellite imaging business to Planet". 
  20. "Google sells satellite imaging business Terra Bella to Planet Labs". Reuters. 3 February 2017. Retrieved 3 February 2017. 
  21. Graham, William (31 October 2017). "Orbital ATK Minotaur-C launches SkySat mission out of Vandenberg". NASASpaceFlight. 
  22. "Planet Doubles Sub-1 Meter Imaging Capacity With Successful Launch of 6 SkySats". (Press release). Planet Labs Inc.
  23. Safyan, Mike (22 October 2018). "Two SkySat Satellites, Three Doves, and a Record-Breaking Launch on Spaceflight's SSO-A". Planet Labs, Inc. 
  24. Wall, Mike (3 December 2018). "SpaceX Rocket Makes Historic 3rd Launch Into Space with 64 Satellites On Board". 
  25. "High-Performance Satellites". Skybox Imaging. 
  26. "Inside a Startup's Plan to Turn a Swarm of DIY Satellites Into an All-Seeing Eye". Retrieved 4 November 2017. 
  28. "High Resolution Smallsats Built by SSL Arrive at Vandenberg AFB for Launch". (Press release). Space Systems/Loral, LLC. 5 September 2017. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  30. Henry, Caleb (5 August 2016). "Terra Bella's SkySat 3 Green Propulsion System Declared Operational - Via Satellite". Via Satellite. Retrieved 1 November 2017. 
  32. "Launch Schedule". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 2020-06-13. 
  33. - 15 June 2010
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