This image compares data from two Iceye Synthetic Aperture Radar images. Changes in the vertical height of the surface appear black. Areas without changes are depicted in white. Credit: Iceye

SAN FRANCISCO – Finland’s Iceye is demonstrating for customers its ability to detect millimeter-scale vertical differences by comparing data in multiple Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite images of the same location.

In the past, this product, called satellite interferometry, has been provided by operators of large satellites. Airbus Defence and Space, for example, performs interferometry, revisiting locations in four to seven days with TerraSAR-X and Tandem-X satellites operating in a constellation with HisdeSat’s Paz satellite.

Iceye is obtaining interferometric data with a single satellite weighing less than 100 kilograms that follows a precise ground track, thanks to electric thrusters from Enpulsion of Austria. Every 18 days, the satellite captures imagery and data of the same locations.

By comparing the datasets, Iceye can detect minute changes caused by soil subsidence, underground exploration, earthquakes or even microquakes, Mark Matossian, Iceye US CEO, told SpaceNews.

Iceye, the first company to launch a small SAR satellite in 2018, operates a three-satellite constellation.

Iceye plans to begin selling interferometric data products later this year. Iceye also plans to cut the time between observations to less than 18 days.

“Interferometry can only be performed with data from SAR satellites that are maintained in a very precise orbit,” Pekka Laurila, Iceye chief strategy officer and co-founder, said in a statement. “The now-demonstrated 18-day repeat orbit highlights the maneuverability of Iceye’s satellite constellation, which allows us to produce new high-precision data types for our customers.”

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...