WASHINGTON — BlackSky, an Earth observation and data analytics firm, will provide satellite imagery services and imaging spacecraft to the Republic of Indonesia under a $50 million deal announced Feb. 8.

BlackSky will work with Thales Alenia Space to establish the building blocks of a sovereign Earth imaging satellite network tailored to Indonesia’s national security needs.

Thales Alenia Space was selected in December to deliver a dedicated Earth observation constellation to the Indonesian Ministry of Defense, combining both radar and optical sensors.

Under the multi-year agreement, Jakarta will gain access to BlackSky’s high-revisit imagery and analytics and will own two of BlackSky’s next-generation Earth observation satellites. The satellites represent the beginning of a future constellation that could include a mix of imaging satellites provided by BlackSky and others built by Thales Alenia. 

BlackSky operates a constellation of 16 electro-optical imaging satellites.

Thales Alenia Space and BlackSky will work under contract to PT Len Industri, Indonesia’s state-owned defense company, which selected the European firm to construct the satellite system.   

Agreement bundles services and hardware

BlackSky under a separate contract from PT Len is supplying Indonesia’s MoD imagery and analytics services. The new agreement bundles services, hardware and ground-systems software.

Thales Alenia Space — a joint venture between the French technology firm Thales Group and Italian defense conglomerate Leonardo — was an early investor in BlackSky. Thales Alenia and BlackSky are co-owners of LeoStella, a satellite manufacturer based in Seattle that produces spacecraft for BlackSky and other customers.

Brian O’Toole, CEO of BlackSky, characterized the partnership with Indonesia as a model for how governments can harness commercial innovation rather than spend billions of dollars and decades developing indigenous platforms.

“We are seeing tremendous demand from international governments looking to rapidly acquire the benefits of space-based information,” O’Toole told SpaceNews. “This partnership helps Indonesia secure leading remote sensing capabilities today rather than wait years attempting to establish a sovereign satellite infrastructure.”  

O’Toole said Indonesia’s program reflects a growing trend of allied governments integrating commercial satellite imagery into defense planning and operations. 

Satellites to be delivered in two years

BlackSky expects to deliver two third-generation electro-optical imaging satellites to the Indonesian MoD in about two years, O’Toole said. Thales Alenia Space will develop the synthetic aperture radar satellites. 

The company’s current constellation is made up of Gen-2 satellites that provide 1-meter resolution imagery. The Gen-3 version will produce sharper 50-centimeter resolution imagery. The Gen-3 satellites also have dual optical-infrared sensors that allow for imaging at night and in low-light conditions. 

Indonesia has not disclosed how many satellites it intends to buy. O’Toole said BlackSky hopes to get more orders. “We expect that over time, they will continue to add more of their own satellites, either from us or from Thales into a very robust sovereign system.”

“This is the start of a long-term relationship with these types of customers,” he said, “where we’re integral to their architecture and evolution, not just leveraging the satellites, but leveraging our software and AI.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...