The latest news from the Terra Bella team
SkySat-3 First Light
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Last week, SkySat-3 was successfully launched aboard ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket into a 500 km sun-synchronous orbit. We captured our first image less than 72 hours after launch and are excited to share an early image of Chicago taken on June 25, 2016 at 10:40AM local time.
Since inception, we have taken great pride in the diverse, hard-working team we’ve built here at Terra Bella.
Each and every member of our team has played an integral part in accomplishing this significant milestone -- from building spacecraft radios, to writing imaging analysis algorithms, to managing our growing fleet of satellites.
Moments like this are a good reminder that great things can happen with a small and dedicated team.
We’d like to thank our extended team, including ECAPS, Earth2Orbit, SSL and ISRO, for helping us get to this point.
Stay tuned for more (product and rocket) launch updates.
Onwards and upwards!
Ching-Yu Hu on behalf of the Terra Bella team
SkySat-3 image over Chicago taken on June 25, 2016 at 10:40AM local time
Download full image
PSLV rocket footage from launch
Terra Bella University CubeSat Partnership
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Discovery, learning and fresh-thinking have shaped our culture since we began 6 years ago. While our name has changed, our values haven’t and we continue to look for ways to stimulate new ideas and empower new generations of engineers.
contracted to procure a Minotaur C launch vehicle
in 2014, we had the opportunity to make use of the small amount of spare capacity on board. We considered everything from building a set of small technology demonstration CubeSats ourselves to selling the slots commercially.
However, it’s a tradition in the aerospace industry to support research and education by making this spare capacity available to University CubeSat programs and the idea of partnering with some of these incredible groups was what excited our team the most. These partnerships give the students and staff a rare opportunity to fly their spacecraft and provides us with an opportunity to give back to the community.
We are thrilled to announce that we have reached agreements with three University programs to do exactly this - Georgia Tech’s RANGE,
University of Colorado’s MinXSS
Saint Louis University’s Copper-2
missions will all fly on our upcoming Minotaur C launch alongside Terra Bella’s second generation satellites.
Georgia Tech’s RANGE CubeSats
Georgia Tech’s Ranging and Nanosatellite Guidance Experiment (RANGE) mission seeks to demonstrate an order-of-magnitude improvement in absolute orbital position knowledge compared with traditional CubeSats and inter-satellite distance measurement with mm-level precision. Consisting of two 1.5U spacecraft flying in formation, it will achieve this using a range of cutting edge technologies including satellite laser ranging.
University of Colorado’s MinXSS CubeSat
The University of Colorado’s Miniature X-Ray Solar Spectrometer (MinXSS) mission seeks to improve our understanding of the energy distribution of solar flare soft X-ray (SXR) emissions and their impact on Earth’s ionosphere, thermosphere, and mesosphere. Aside from the scientific significance, MinXSS will demonstrate a variety of technologies including compact 3-axis attitude control and a miniature and a high-performance x-ray spectrometer.
St. Louis University's Copper-2 CubeSat
Saint Louis University’s Copper-2 mission seeks to flight-test a neural network for automated event detection and response. The neural network will be trained to detect interesting and unexpected science events (in images and on-board telemetry), and the spacecraft will record these events.
All three missions also have a primary mission to stimulate and develop the next generation of students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) through hands on technical experience. CubeSat projects present a unique opportunity for these students to go through an entire engineering project lifecycle and this partnership provides them the unique opportunity to see their work fly in space.
At Terra Bella, we’re excited to work with these inspiring teams of students, teachers, scientists and engineers. We feel privileged to be in a position to give something back to the engineering community and look forward to finding more opportunities to do so in the future.
We would like to thank our commercial partners in this project - Spaceflight Services, Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems and TZero Consulting.
Posted by Jonny Dyer, Chief Engineer
Introducing Terra Bella
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Seven years ago, we started Skybox Imaging with the vision of a new era in space technology. Small satellites with big capabilities are no longer a dream. Today, two years and nearly 100,000 images separate us from the launch of our first satellite, SkySat-1.
As we have engaged with thousands of potential users, we have been struck over and over again by a simple truth. There is an incredible opportunity for geospatial information to transform our ability to meet the economic, societal, and humanitarian challenges of the 21st century, but satellite imagery represents only one part of the puzzle.
As proud as we are to have played a leading role in developing satellite technologies, we have realized that our vision extends far beyond boxes in the sky. As Google revolutionized search for the online world, we have set our eyes on pioneering the search for patterns of change in the physical world. In order to focus firmly on the future, we’re pursuing that vision under a new name –
We will continue building spacecraft. Today, we have more than a dozen satellites under development that will continue to demonstrate state-of-the-art capabilities and are scheduled to launch over the next few years.
However, as a Google company now, we are also now working with a wide array of geospatial data sources, machine learning capabilities, and experts that we could not have imagined as an independent start up company. These resources will give us a unique ability to transform raw imagery into data to help people and organizations make more informed decisions.
In the coming year, we look forward to sharing more about the products we are developing and how users will be able to access them.
In the meantime, join our
or follow our
to keep posted about this next chapter of our journey. We’re growing our team in 2016 and are looking for new talent to tackle challenges from machine learning and data science to hardware design and flight operations, so check out our job postings on
Onwards and upwards!
Posted by Founders—Dan Berkenstock, John Fenwick, and Ching-Yu Hu
Happy Birthday, SkySat-1!
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
It’s hard to believe that just 2 years ago we
our first satellite, SkySat-1. Who would have known such a new technology built by a small team would be able to pioneer the first commercial sub-meter imagery, high-resolution full motion
, and nighttime
from a small satellite. To us, SkySat-1 will always symbolize the power of camaraderie and perseverance.
To commemorate SkySat-1’s birthday, we created the montage below with over 22,500 downsampled thumbnails of images collected by SkySat-1 during its second year in space. The full, 600 DPI image, is downloadable
As SkySat-1 and SkySat-2 continue to capture deep stacks of beautiful images and videos across the globe, we have been busy over the last year working to leverage Google’s resources and smarts to lay the foundation to scale. Next year will be a big year for us as we prepare for the launch of 10+ next generation satellites on 3 different rockets from 3 different continents.
Onwards and upwards!
To download the full resolution version of the graphic, click
Close up view of the SkySat image tiles.
SkySat-1 image of Jubail, Saudi Arabia on SkySat-1’s birthday (November 21, 2015)
MapReduce for C: Run Native Code in Hadoop
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
We are pleased to announce the release of
MapReduce for C
(MR4C), an open source framework that allows you to run native code in
MR4C was originally developed at Skybox Imaging to facilitate large scale satellite image processing and geospatial data science. We found the job tracking and cluster management capabilities of Hadoop well-suited for scalable data handling, but also wanted to leverage the powerful ecosystem of proven image processing libraries developed in C and C++. While many software companies that deal with large datasets have built proprietary systems to execute native code in MapReduce frameworks, MR4C represents a flexible solution in this space for use and development by the open source community.
If this sounds interesting to you, get started with our documentation and source
MR4C GitHub page
. The goal of this project is to abstract the important details of the MapReduce framework and allow users to focus on developing valuable algorithms. Let us know how we're doing in our
Posted by Ty Kennedy-Bowdoin, Platform Processing Product Manager
Nighttime HD Satellite Video
Friday, November 21, 2014
People and global businesses work day and night: so, too do Skybox Imaging satellites. Today we are pleased to showcase
nighttime HD video
from our first satellite, SkySat-1.
*Click on the 1080p HD toggle to see this video in full resolution* Bright lights, big city: the famous Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada at night as seen by Skybox Imaging’s SkySat-1 satellite from low Earth orbit on Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 10:42 p.m. local time, complete with flashing lights and moving cars. Notable sites visible in the scene include the Bellagio Hotel and its renowned fountain lake, and Paris Las Vegas’ brightly-illuminated model of the Eiffel Tower, located near the center of the video.
At Skybox, we're busy building out pixel and information services to help individuals and companies better understand our world and make better-informed, data-driven decisions. The polar orbiting imaging satellites that power our business spend about 40% of their time in the dark, so the ability to capture video at night means we can offer our users and customers insights into change occurring around the clock.
As seen in
Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) imagery from NASA’s Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) mission
EROS-B night imagery from ImageSat
, the signatures of economic activity are readily observable after dark in the form of nighttime lights. The presence and time-dependent changes of these can provide insight for a wide spectrum of civil, commercial, and humanitarian use cases.
Applications of nighttime satellite imagery and video include:
Energy production and consumption estimation
Coastal and maritime domain awareness for shipping, fishing and trade
Industrial facility utilization and infrastructure assessment
Trade and transport traffic pattern analysis
Humanitarian crisis support
We are excited to share this announcement today and continue working with Skybox customers and partners to advance development of this and other innovative solutions using Skybox imagery and video.
Posted by Niko Milonopoulos, Skybox Data Analyst
Introducing Skybox for Good
Thursday, October 23, 2014
When we started Skybox in 2009 we knew that we had a tremendous opportunity to leverage our imaging capability for positive change in the world. We would be capturing the world at high resolution and with unmatched frequency. As soon as SkySat-1 was in orbit we began monitoring sites critical to our understanding of global climate change, such as the Helheim Glacier in Greenland.
18 August, 2014 | Helheim Glacier, Greenland | SkySat-1
We also partnered with organizations like the
Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s Signal Program
, who used our imagery to help develop tools for
Internally Displaced Persons
camp management in Africa and the Middle East.
16 March 2014 | Yida, South Sudan | SkySat-1
I’ve always been impressed by how access to global satellite imagery through Google Earth and Maps has changed the way people see their world - from the cities they live in to faraway places. In my new role on the
Google Earth Outreach
team, I have been astounded by the way these tools have changed how
do their work and tell their amazing stories. I have also learned that one of the most frequent questions is “Can you get us newer images of this place?”
And I’m excited to say that now the answer is “YES, we can get new satellite imagery for you!” Today, at our annual
Geo for Good User Summit
, we announced the Skybox for Good program, under which we will contribute fresh satellite imagery to projects that save lives, protect the environment, promote education, and positively impact humanity. We’ve captured some images of Nagarkovil village in Northern Sri Lanka.
previously cleared landmines in this area and used updated imagery to help verify that people are returning, having built 84 houses and cultivating over 40 hectares of agricultural land.
3 October, 2014 | Nagarkovil, Sri Lanka | SkySat-1
in Google Maps
In this beta phase of the program, we will select a small group of organizations and provide the imagery they need to accelerate their work. The images collected for these partners are being made available publicly, under a Creative Commons By Attribution license (
CC BY 4.0
), for everyone to see and use. We’ve already started collecting a few images, which you can see on
. Check out the images in West Virginia, where
are monitoring and measuring the rapid expansion of mountaintop-removal (
) mining which is devastating forests and communities across Appalachia, visible in the image below, right next to the popular hiking trails of Kanawha State Forest.
2 October, 2014 | KD-2 Mine, West Virginia | SkySat-2
in Google Maps
Google Earth Outreach gives nonprofits and public benefit organizations the knowledge and resources they need to visualize their cause and tell their story. In the future, we hope to expand the Skybox for Good program to allow many more non-profit organizations and public interest groups to benefit from the use of Skybox data.
As part of Google, we are inspired by the opportunity to up our game and make a difference at a much larger scale.
for updates as we expand the program.
Posted by Julian Mann, Skybox Co-Founder and Developer Advocate, Google Earth Outreach
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