An artist's rendering of Loft Orbital's YAM-3 satellite, which used a bus from LeoStella. Credit: Loft Orbital

SAN FRANCISCO — Hydrosat, a company planning to create a thermal infrared map of Earth, announced an agreement Dec. 9 with Loft Orbital to launch its first satellite mission in early 2022.

Under the agreement, Hydrosat’s first multi-spectral infrared mission will launch on Loft Orbital’s YAM-6 spacecraft aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The mission, called VanZyl-1, will provide the first commercial space-based thermal imagery to track water stress, assess wildfire risk and support agricultural monitoring, according to Hydrosat CEO Pieter Fossel.

“We are building the world’s first commercial infrared satellite constellation capable of measuring temperature,” Fossel said in a statement. “Until now, thermal infrared has been the sole domain of government programs. We are demonstrating that a highly accurate capability can be delivered commercially at low cost.”

Washington-based Hyrdosat was founded in 2017 to provide geospatial data to commercial and government customers. San Francisco-based Loft Orbital, also founded in 2017, offers microsatellite missions as a service by integrating customer payloads with standard satellite buses and mission operations software.

“We chose Loft Orbital because of their flexibility and end-to-end approach,” Fossel said. “Loft is a fantastic partner for us because of their ability to remove risk from the system and deliver value on the satellite bus and launch services. We look forward to working with them as we deliver game-changing data and analytics to the agriculture market and to address climate change.”

Hydrosat’s VanZyl-1 is named for Hydrosat co-founder Jakob van Zyl, who died in August. Before co-founding Hydrosat, van Zyl worked at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he served as associate director for project formulation and strategy and solar system exploration director. “There is no better way for us to honor our friend’s legacy than with this space mission,” Fossel said.

Loft Orbital planned to launch its first satellite, Yet Another Mission (YAM) 2, in mid-2020 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. That mission is now expected to launch in early 2021. Loft Orbital shelved YAM-1, a demonstration mission, to make way for operational flights.

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...