KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Muon Space, a startup developing small satellites to monitor Earth’s climate, is working with the nonprofit Earth Fire Alliance to build a constellation focused on prevention and monitoring of wildfires.

Based in Mountain View, California, Muon Space is partnering with Earth Fire Alliance, a new organization dedicated to wildfire resilience, the company announced May 6 at the GEOINT Symposium.

The satellites, named FireSats, have been in development for five years. Muon Space said the project has received financial support from Google Research and other non-governmental organizations, including the Environmental Defense Fund,, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the Minderoo Foundation along with guidance from over 200 members of the federal, state, and local firefighting communities. 

Economic impact

“The FireSat constellation will provide high-fidelity data to protect Earth’s ecosystems from the escalating threat of wildfires,” the company said. The Moore Foundation in a report estimated that billions of dollars of economic value can be generated with even small improvements in wildfire response times. 

Satellites with infrared sensors can detect fires faster than ground observations, especially in remote areas. This allows for a quicker response time, which is critical for containing wildfires before they spread. Industry organizations have pointed out that satellites can continuously monitor wildfires, providing data on their size, location, temperature,and spread. This information is useful for firefighters in strategizing how to contain the blaze 

Muon Space said the first phase of the FireSat constellation, projected to launch in 2026, will consist of three Muon Halo satellites equipped with six-band multispectral infrared instruments. The satellites are designed to operate in an untasked “always-on” mode over land.

With the first three satellites, the company estimates the constellation will observe every point on Earth at least twice a day, with wildfire-prone regions revisited more frequently. The long-term goal is a network of more than 50 satellites, with the revisit times for most of the globe improving to 20 minutes.

Multispectral instrument

Dan McCleese, chief scientist of Muon Space, said the multispectral infrared instrument will help to differentiate genuine wildfire events from false positives, and enhance the accuracy of wildfire detection and assessment of fire intensity.

The FireSat system will operate in low Earth orbit with an observation swath of 1,500 kilometers and an average ground sample distance of 80 meters, said McCleese. 

Chris Van Arsdale, who helped initiate the project at Google Research and is a member of the Earth Fire Alliance board of directors, said the data collected by FireSat will support Earth science research. “We are looking forward to applying modern machine learning techniques to detect and track fires globally,” he said.

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...