PARIS — The five-satellite RapidEye Earth observation constellation is likely to continue to operate “into 2019 or later,” giving Berlin-based RapidEye more time to evaluate alternatives for a second-generation system, the company said Jan. 17.
RapidEye’s five medium-resolution satellites were placed into a 630-kilometer low Earth orbit in August 2008 and entered full commercial operations in early 2009. The satellites were designed to operate for seven years.
The company, which was purchased out of bankruptcy by a Canadian firm in 2011 and moved its main operations from Brandenburg, Germany, to Berlin in late 2012, had said it expected to generate around $45 million in revenue in 2012. RapidEye said it would need to increase its annual revenue to about $50 million to be able to afford to build and launch a second-generation constellation.
Another alternative RapidEye was considering was the purchase of images from other Earth observation satellites after its own had been retired.
A recent assessment of the satellites’ health and fuel reserves concluded that the five satellites should be able to continue even longer than the earlier estimate of 2018.
“All five satellites are fully operational,” Brian D’Souza, RapidEye head of engineering, said in a Jan. 17 statement. “Based on the current performance of the satellites and the abundance of consumables such as propellant and power, RapidEye now expects our constellation to perform into 2019 or later.”
RapidEye Chief Technology Officer Michael Oxfort is leading the company’s study of options for data continuity after 2019, the company said.