TAMPA, Fla. — Germany’s OroraTech has ordered eight more thermal imaging satellites from Spire Global to expand its wildfire-monitoring constellation next year.

Spire Global said June 28 it had signed a deal to build and operate the satellites, which are slated to launch in mid-2024 although the U.S.-based company has yet to pick a slot within its existing multi-launch-agreements.

After announcing it had secured 15 million euros ($16 million) for its constellation plans in November, OroraTech CEO Thomas Grübler told SpaceNews that additional funding would be needed to build eight additional satellites. 

The satellites would be identical to FOREST-2 (Forest Observation and Recognition Experimental Smallsat Thermal Detector), a 6U spacecraft the size of six cubesats that SpaceX launched in a June 12 rideshare mission.

FOREST-2’s thermal imager is designed to cover a width of 400 kilometers, four times OroraTech’s 15-month-old debut payload FOREST-1, among other improvements.

OroraTech said that while FOREST-1 was intended to be a technology demonstrator for its thermal, mid-infrared and RGB cameras, it has been serving as an active fire monitoring instrument after exceeding expectations. The satellite is currently assisting Quebec’s fire agency as Canada experiences its most destructive wildfire season on record.

According to OroraTech, eight additional satellites would give the venture sufficient coverage for monitoring wildfires in the afternoon, when most fires happen and when there is no coverage from publicly available satellites. 

The constellation would also help identify and track areas at risk of wildfires that are becoming increasingly prevalent as a result of climate change.

Using Spire’s space-as-a-service business also enables the German venture to draw on the company’s global network of ground stations to downlink the data its constellation generates.

Ultimately, OroraTech envisages a constellation in the next few years that would be big enough for a detection time of 30 minutes worldwide, using Spire’s ground network to alert customers within three minutes of detecting a wildfire.

Spire and OroraTech are also working together on a Canadian Space Agency contract laying the groundwork for a publicly funded wildfire monitoring satellite.

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...