Iceye and Satlantis propose optical and radar satellite constellation

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PARIS – Iceye announced preliminary plans Sept. 14 to work with Satlantis, a Spanish Earth-observation technology company, to launch a constellation of four satellites to acquire high-resolution radar and optical imagery.

Satellites in the proposed Tandem4EO constellation would fly in formation in sun synchronous low-Earth orbit with two Iceye synthetic aperture radar satellites flying in a bistatic formation ahead of two Satlantis satellites designed to gather imagery with a resolution of less than one meter per pixel.

“Earth observation is ultimately about truly understanding what is happening in a selected location — with confidence,” Rafal Modrzewski, Iceye CEO and co-founder, said in a statement. “To achieve robust and fast analysis, combining the strengths of optical and SAR satellites in a single constellation yields incredibly useful insights for stakeholders in Spain and Europe.”

The Tandem4EO program is designed to bolster Spain’s New Space sector. Work would be performed at Finland-based Iceye’s manufacturing and research facilities in Jumilla, Spain, and Satlantis’ headquarters in Bilbao.

“Both companies will continue to increase their investments in their local operations, supporting Earth observation downstream applications in the European Union, and the growth of the local New Space ecosystem,” according to a Sept. 14 news release.

“Spain is in a remarkable position in Europe, with two leading New Space companies established in its territory opening new and unique opportunities in Earth observation,” Satlantis CEO Juan Tomás Hernani said in a statement. “This proposed initiative is the type of aerospace collaboration that would not have been feasible before. We’re in the golden age of New Space, and now is the right time to act on it.”

Flying radar satellites in a bistatic formation would allow Iceye to offer customers satellite interferometry, a product that can reveal millimeter-scale vertical differences in the Earth’s surface or structures. In addition, the combination of high-resolution optical imagery with SAR has applications related to natural catastrophes, security, environmental monitoring and infrastructure development, according to the news release.