We achieved another major milestone at Capella Space last week. On Friday, May 21, we released the first light image from the latest satellite we added to our SAR constellation, launched just 5 days earlier on the SpaceX Starlink 26 mission. To give a sense of why this is important, the SAR industry is used to imagery deliveries over the course of 5 days when the satellites are already launched and commissioned. In this same amount of time, we have launched, commissioned and collected imagery.
This satellite joins our growing constellation, which offers the highest resolution SAR data commercially available on the market. In addition to quality, each additional satellite adds more capacity to our commercial constellation and more frequent revisit for our customers’ area of interest — providing even better and faster Earth observation data for our customers.
Our satellite’s first light image captured the Erez Border Crossing between Israel and Gaza one hour before the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas went into effect. At 50cm x 50cm resolution, this image shows the Erez Border Crossing with rich details such as the terminal, security fence and road networks where humanitarian aid has begun to enter into the Gaza strip by truck. We are thrilled to provide additional capacity on our satellites so that our customers can rapidly access 24/7 all-weather data needed to make better economic, environmental and security decisions.
Launches are always a busy and exciting time for our team. A Lot of hard work goes into the design, construction, launch and commissioning of every satellite, so gathering together (even if we can’t all be in the same place) during the launch is a rewarding experience for the whole team.
Here are just a few of my favorite moments from launch day:
The Space Selfie
Our constellation captured this “selfie” of LC39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida where our newest SAR satellite spent its last moments on Earth.
As the spacecraft orbited the Earth at over 17,000 miles per hour, the team turned on an on-board camera subsystem to observe and record the deployments. The boom deployment extends a three-meter arm out toward the Earth around the focal point of the reflector antenna. The boom also contains a camera that then looks back toward the spacecraft to monitor the subsequent reflector antenna deployment.
Reflector Antenna Deployment
Engineers deployed the antenna over a series of ground contacts, tensioning the instrument to millimeter-level precision. In this image, you can see the final deployment of our mesh-based reflector antenna. It’s designed to deliver high-contrast, high-resolution and low-noise imagery.
Launch Scenes from Earth
Although a lot of the excitement from a launch happens in space, we have fun down here on Earth too.
Between the exciting moments, we are able to find some downtime as well, such as playing a game of chess while waiting for SpaceX’s Starlink Mission Launch Sequence. Note the use of a 3D printed model of our spacecraft as a chess piece.
This is my favorite launch celebration image, capturing the pride and excitement from the onsite San Francisco team as the SpaceX webcast shows the Falcon 9 carrying Capella’s newest SAR satellite clearing the pad at Cape Canaveral.
After a brief launch celebration, the hard work for Capella’s Space Operations Team begins. The first step is to establish reliable communications with the spacecraft and use telemetry data to monitor the satellite’s health throughout deployment.
Every satellite launch is a unique experience and our latest SpaceX rideshare was no exception. As we test, build and iterate our spacecraft we also apply lessons learned to improve our operations and each commissioning benefits from an incredibly talented and experienced team.
The team is very impressed with the first light images from our latest spacecraft. We are now proceeding with detailed quality validation and calibration. Once the calibration is complete, this newest addition to the Capella Constellation will integrate seamlessly into our web-based console, increasing the availability of on-demand, high-resolution SAR that our customers can task to meet their mission and business objectives.
We have more launches planned for 2021 (and likely more chess games, too). Keep checking out our blog and Twitter for information on future launches.