Earth observation customers want speedy satellite tasking

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MOUNTAIN VIEW, California – The September drone attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities touched off a frenzy of activity at Ursa Space, a satellite data and analytics company based in Ithaca, New York.

“It was a manual process,” said Derek Edinger, Ursa chief strategy officer and co-founder, said at the Satellite Innovation 2019 conference here. “People were on the phones. People were emailing. It was like a little mission control scenario.”

Companies supplying Earth observation data often discuss efforts to speed up delivery of satellite data to customers once it’s acquired. Another important component of efforts to expand the market for Earth observation data is rapid satellite tasking for customers whose demands are time sensitive, according to a panel of Earth observation experts.

“We have been focusing a lot on reducing data delivery time,” said Nina Soleng, marketing director for Kongsberg Satellite Services, the Norwegian satellite ground stations company. “There is more room for improvement before the time of data of acquisition.”

In some cases, imagery orders placed within two or three days of tasking are considered emergency orders. The tasking process is still largely manual although established companies and Earth observation startups are working to automate it, panelists said.

Soleng said she sees promise in Earth observation subscription models like the one offered by Planet, the San Francisco-based company that operates more than 100 Earth observation satellites capturing daily imagery of Earth’s landmass. KSAT would like access to daily imagery of oceans to serve customers acquiring Earth observation data for maritime applications.