US: A fleet of 28 miniature satellites, called CubeSats/Flock 1, has just been released in space by the International Space Station (ISS). Considered the largest single constellation of Earth–imaging satellites ever to launch into space, the Flock 1 satellites began deploying from the International Space Station. Built and operated by Planet Labs of San Francisco, the Flock 1 small satellites are individually referred to as Doves.
These small satellites will capture imagery of Earth for use in humanitarian, environmental and commercial applications. Data collected by the Flock 1 constellation will be universally accessible to anyone who wishes to use it. "We believe that the democratization of information about a changing planet is the mission that we are focused on, and that, in and of itself, is going to be quite valuable for the planet. One tenet that we have is to make sure that we produce more value than we actually capture, so we have an open principle within the company with respect to anyone getting access to the data," says Robbie Schingler, co-founder of Planet Labs. The Dove CubeSats use an automated approach where the spacecraft take pictures over various areas, store them, and transmit them when positioned over a ground station. Planet Labs then processes the imagery and uploads it online for anyone to access it. Imagery from Flock 1 enables identification of areas for disaster relief and improved agricultural yields in developing countries around the globe. Users also can apply this imagery resource to global environmental protection measures, such as monitoring deforestation and changes to polar ice caps.