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Capella Space unveils advanced satellite design to deliver high-res Earth observation data

Stephen Kuper

Capella Space, an information services company that provides Earth observation data on demand, has unveiled its evolved satellite design to enable on-demand observations of anywhere on Earth.

Capella Space unveils advanced satellite design to deliver high-res Earth observation data
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Informed by extensive customer feedback and findings from the launch of Denali, Capella’s testbed satellite, the re-engineered design features a suite of technological innovations to deliver timely, flexible and frequent sub-0.5-metre very high quality images to the market. 

The enhanced technology package will deliver the most advanced offering for small satellite SAR imagery on the market.

Christian Lenz, vice president of engineering at Capella Space, said, "Our customers have spoken: today’s industry standard of waiting eight hours to receive data is woefully outdated. They want access to imagery that is reliable, timely and, most importantly, high-quality."

The satellite evolution is a direct result of customer feedback, extensive on-orbit testing with Capella’s first testbed satellite Denali, as well as ground-based testing. Enhancements include:

  • Advanced design delivering high contrast, low-noise, sub-0.5-metre imagery: A 3.5-metre deployed mesh-based reflector antenna combined with a high power radar enable key performance improvements, including quality advances.
  • Extended duty cycle: A deployed 400-watt solar array increases on-orbit duty cycle to 10 minutes per orbit.
  • Continuous imaging over long distance: Advanced thermal management systems allow continuous imaging of up to 4,000-kilometre-long strip images.
  • Highly agile platform: Enabled by large reaction wheels, the new satellite quickly adjusts pointing to collect images from diverse targets.
  • Staring spotlight image mode: New mode further enhances image quality with the ability to collect the highest commercially available multi-look data.
  • Enhanced data downlink rate: A high average data rate downlink of 1.2 Gbps supports the massive image collection rate and extended duty cycle, providing more data per orbit than any other commercial SAR system in its class.
  • Real-time tasking: A highly secure encrypted two-way link with Inmarsat through an exclusive partnership with add value provides real-time tasking capability for the entire Capella constellation.

"The innovations packed into our small satellite make Capella the first and only SAR provider to provide real-time tasking and capture of sub-0.5-metre very high-quality imagery anywhere on Earth at any time. This is a game-changer for a variety of industries – from monitoring military threats to assessing crop yields in agriculture to coordinating disaster response," Lenz said. 

The new satellite design cemented major deals with multiple divisions of the US government, including a contract with the US Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office.

The technological enhancements will be embedded in Capella’s next six commercial satellites, named the “Whitney” constellation, starting with the launch of Sequoia slated for March of 2020. The Sequoia satellite is currently completing system level tests and will arrive at the launch site in early March.

Capella is also licensed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for its 36 small satellite constellation, along with approval to sell the highest resolution legally allowed SAR commercial imagery to customers globally.

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