Albedo combines visible and thermal imagery to make imagery easier for people or machines to analyze. Credit: Albedo

SAN FRANCISCO – Earth observation startup Albedo announced a $1.25 million contract April 27 to provide the National Air and Space Intelligence Center with thermal infrared imagery for nighttime applications.

With funding from the Small Business Innovation Research contract awarded by AFWERX, the U.S. Air Force innovation arm, Albedo, based in Austin, Texas, and Denver, “will mature our infrared imager technology through aerial flights and lab work,” Albedo CEO Topher Haddad told SpaceNews by email. “The work will be critical in ensuring our capability is compatible with U.S. Government needs and demonstrating relevant use cases.”

Albedo plans to operate satellites in very low Earth orbit to gather visible imagery with a resolution of 10 centimeters per pixel and thermal infrared imagery with a resolution of two meters per pixel. To make thermal imagery easier to analyze, Albedo will “sharpen” it by combining it with the visual imagery of the same location.

“While our native two-meter long-wave infrared is valuable on its own for certain use cases, combining it with simultaneously collected 10-centimeter optical imagery gives it an additional boost in resolution, increasing the insights that can be gained,” Haddad said.

The contract announced April 27 was the second $1.25 million Air Force SBIR contract awarded to Albedo in the last year.

Under the previous award, the Air Force is analyzing Albedo’s imagery collection capabilities to determine the best way to integrate Albedo imagery tasking with government systems.  

“Nighttime commercial imagery is currently limited to synthetic aperture radar,” Joseph Rouge, U.S. Space Force deputy director for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, said in a statement. “High-resolution thermal infrared will provide a new commercial remote sensing solution for the U.S. Space Force.”

Rouge added, “Nighttime thermal infrared imaging can help our intelligence analysts, warfighters, decision makers, and field operators solve complex emerging threats day and night.”

The National Air and Space Intelligence Center is co-located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base with the National Space Intelligence Center.

“The intelligence community faces an increasing number of complex questions and issues that require innovative solutions for collecting and analyzing data,” Randall Bostick, NASIC principal intelligence analyst, said in a statement. “It is critical that we leverage advances in satellite technology to meet our evolving mission needs in the coming years.”

Albedo raised $48 million in a Series A funding round in 2022.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...