Planet and SpaceX announce multiyear launch agreement

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SAN FRANCISCO – Planet announced a multiyear agreement Aug. 5 that designates SpaceX as the Earth-observation company’s “go-to-launch provider through the end of 2025.”

Planet did not reveal the number of satellites or launches covered by the agreement. In the first launch covered by the deal, Planet is preparing to send 44 SuperDoves into orbit in December on the SpaceX Falcon 9 Transporter-3 rideshare mission.

“I’m excited to continue our partnership with SpaceX,” Planet CEO Will Marshall said in a statement. “We’ve had seven launches to date. But more than that, we’ve pioneered together rapid planning, manufacturing and launch of satellites that only Planet and SpaceX could together have achieved.”

Planet launched 48 SuperDoves on the SpaceX Transporter-1 mission in January, expanding its Earth observation fleet to more than 200 satellites. SuperDoves capture imagery with a resolution of about 3 meters per pixel in eight spectral bands.

SpaceX also transported a total of six Planet SkySats to orbit in June 2020 and August 2020 alongside SpaceX Starlink broadband satellites. SkySats offer 50-centimeter resolution.

In a news release announcing the agreement with SpaceX, Planet attributes skyrocketing “demand for flexible, high-resolution imagery of the Earth” to companies seeking “daily global insights for their industries.”

Planet is known for continually updating satellite hardware and software. With the 44 SuperDoves set to fly in December, Planet is “continuing to innovate by rapidly building satellites with the newest advances in imagery technology,” according to the news release.

SpaceX rideshare missions have proven to be extremely popular. The Transporter-1 mission flew 143 satellites and the Transporter-2 launch June 30 lofted another 88.

“SpaceX’s rideshare program has allowed companies like Planet to meet their ambitious targets for product launch,” according to the Planet news release.

Tom Ochinero, SpaceX vice president of commercial sales, said in a statement, “We’re honored that Planet has chosen SpaceX as its go-to launch provider. As the demand for Planet’s services continues to soar, SpaceX’s regular launch cadence will allow Planet’s customers to use its services with as little downtime after manufacturing as possible.”

While SpaceX is becoming Planet’s go-to-launch provider, Planet will continue to sign deals with other launch providers. “Planet maintains a diversified launch manifest to mitigate risks inherent to the launch industry,” the news release said.

Booking rides on many different rockets has been a key element of Planet’s success in building the world’s largest Earth-observation constellation. Planet lost 26 satellites in the 2014 failure of an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket, eight more in the 2015 breakup of a SpaceX Falcon 9 and another five in July 2020 when a Rocket Lab Electron failed to reach orbit.

“By engaging with a diversified manifest, Planet can find launches to the right orbit in the right time frame for each evolving satellite project,” the news release said.