Rep. Derek Kilmer said commercial geospatial data should be used to supplement imagery from classified sources.
WASHINGTON — At an event on Capitol Hill headlined by Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Planet officials tried to make the case that defense and intelligence agencies should make greater use of low-cost geospatial data to supplement high-resolution imagery.
Kilmer, a space enthusiast and advocate for the commercial geospatial data industry, said Nov. 20 that investments made by private companies like Planet “present an opportunity in national security and intelligence to bring down the cost and increase access to geospatial data.”
Commercial geospatial data complements imagery from classified sources, said Kilmer. “It’s not a replacement to existing government run geospatial systems,” he said.
Planet, an Earth observation company with about 150 imaging satellites in orbit, currently has contracts with U.S. intelligence agencies but has found that customers in that sector are biased in favor of high-resolution imagery. Planet’s 120 Dove satellites image the Earth’s landmass on a daily basis, at 3 to 5 meter resolution.
At the event on Capitol Hill, Planet defense and intelligence analyst Chris Biggers showed how the data collected by Dove satellites can be used to monitor areas of interest and produce valuable insights for national security such as developments of new weapons systems by China or Russia’s buildup of air defenses in Ukraine.
“We are showing to customers the value of our data,” said Biggers.
Mark Mozena, senior director of government affairs at Planet Federal, said the company is adding new products and services. In addition to the Dove satellites that image the planet daily, the company operates SkySat and RapidEye satellites that are traditional point-and-shoot spacecraft that provide higher resolution imagery.
The Dove constellation could soon grow to 140 satellites. Mozena said on Nov. 24 India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle will launch 20 Dove satellites from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India.
The company in October announced it is preparing to offer 50-centimeter-resolution imagery from its SkySat constellation and updating Dove satellites to gather imagery in eight spectral bands.
Officials said Planet customers were asking for higher resolution than the 72-centimeter-per-pixel imagery coming from Planet’s constellation of 15 SkySats. The company intends to move the SkySats to a lower altitude and improve image processing.