UK: With having a network of 15-strong satellites orbiting the earth, and a new prototype satellite being planned to be launched this year, Earth-i is aiming to provide the world’s most advanced commercial imaging of the earth from space.
Founded in 2013 by aerospace engineer and CEO of Earth-i, Richard Blain said, the constellation of satellites would be capable of capturing images at resolutions higher than 1 meter per pixel.
Each satellite will orbit the earth from the north to south pole 15 times a day, enabling far more detailed continuous observation, said Mr Blain. The service is aimed at companies or public agencies that want to monitor facilities or events.
The technology has drawn the interest of the European Space Agency, which is in early discussions about using the Earth-i data in the service offered by Copernicus, the world’s largest earth observation program.
Earth-i is developing the service in partnership with Surrey Satellite Technology and will announce the timetable for its plans at the UK Space conference in Manchester, which starts on Tuesday.
Josef Aschbacher, director of earth observation at the ESA, said Earth-i’s constellation would significantly enhance the Copernicus program. “Sentinel [the Copernicus constellation] will cover certain points on the globe every five days. They are covering a niche not covered by Copernicus and the anchor tenant [on the constellation] could be the Copernicus programme,” he said. “It is unique. There are plans by other providers coming up, but not as early as Earth-i.”
Earth-i’s target date of 2019 to launch the constellation will depend on the company raising the financing. Mr Blain said that the plans required roughly £100 m over three years, using debt and other financing.
The Earth-i announcement will open the biennial space conference, which brings together UK companies and agencies such as the ESA to explore commercial opportunities in the sector.
The UK government has said the space sector will be a priority in its soon-to-be launched industrial strategy and is hoping to claim 10 per cent of the global market by 2030. This would mean increasing the sector’s annual turnover from £13 billion to £40 billion in the next 13 years.
The UK has launched a competition to determine the best business proposal for satellite launch capability. Bids have been submitted by consortium in Scotland, Wales and the south west of England.