The latest news from the Terra Bella team
SkySat-1 Captures First High-Resolution, HD Video of Earth from Space
Friday, December 27, 2013
A few weeks ago, we shared the first images from SkySat-1, the first of our planned constellation of 24 satellites. Today, we are excited to share the world’s first commercial, high-resolution, HD video of Earth from space. The following montage showcases several of the first videos captured by SkySat-1 since early December and these videos are untuned and not yet calibrated. In this video, you will see a selection of views including Tokyo, Bangkok, Baltimore, Las Vegas, and Aleppo, Syria.
Watch the video in 1080p HD resolution on the following YouTube link. Click on the 1080p HD and full screen toggles to see the video in its full resolution.
The resolution is high enough to observe objects that impact the global economy like shipping containers, but not close enough to view or identify human activity. SkySat-1 also captures some of the highest quality color imagery of any commercial satellite and is capable of sub-meter native color and near-infrared imagery. And most revolutionary, SkySat-1 was built and launched for more than an order of magnitude lower cost than traditional sub-meter imaging satellites.
This is an important inflection point showing that high-quality, high-resolution imagery data can be more timely, accessible, and affordable. By merging the Silicon Valley approach with aerospace engineering, we are pioneering a game-changing platform and a new generation of applications for the remote sensing industry and for new markets yet to be realized.
With our ability to capture up to 90 second video clips at 30 frames per second, we are now able to gather dynamic information about the world around us at an unprecedented scale. There’s an immense amount of knowledge that we can glean from analyzing movement – supply chain monitoring, maritime awareness, industrial plant activity, environmental monitoring, and humanitarian relief monitoring – and we are excited to explore the breadth of possibilities with this unique data source.
Stay tuned, we are just getting started.
SkySat-1 First Light
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
We are excited to share the first images from SkySat-1, the first of our planned constellation of 24 satellites.
The following images were taken over Perth, Australia, on December 4, 2013 at 10:25AM (local time) and are untuned and not yet calibrated. As you can see below, features are clearly discernible that validate our goal to provide high-quality, sub-meter imagery: car windshields, varying car colors, road markings, etc. These images exceed our early expectations for quality.
SkySat-1 is a high-performance satellite producing sub-meter resolution imagery and high-definition video that was designed and built at our headquarters in Mountain View, California. To our knowledge, SkySat-1 is the smallest satellite ever flown that is capable of capturing imagery at better than 1 meter resolution.
SkySat-1 was launched on November 21, 2013 from Yasny, Russia aboard a Dnepr rocket. We made contact with the spacecraft on the first pass and completed bus commissioning within days. Once the payload door was opened, initial images were captured within hours. We are tuning and calibrating the system and are excited to deliver more imagery soon. To watch video footage of the rocket launch,
We’ll have more news to share soon. Until then, onwards and upwards!
Beaton Park in Perth, Australia
Crown Perth in Perth, Australia
Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, UAE
Dnepr Rocket Successfully Launched
Thursday, November 21, 2013
We’re thrilled to announce that our Dnepr rocket successfully launched and SkySat-1 has officially reached orbit. Watch the launch footage here:
Silicon Valley Goes to Space
Friday, November 15, 2013
Skybox will be featured in KQED's documentary "Silicon Valley Goes to Space". The following is KQED's blog post on the documentary.
explores how the big, bold ideas of Silicon Valley are helping launch a new era of private space exploration in a half-hour special,
Silicon Valley Goes to Space
airing at 7:30pm on Wednesday, November 20
From space tourism to mining the moon to companies ferrying NASA astronauts into space, a new wave of commercialization is shaking up the $300 billion global space industry. KQED talks to a new generation of entrepreneurs sprung from the high-tech culture of Silicon Valley who are venturing into the new unregulated “wild west” of space exploration in search of their space gold. KQED also examines potential new risks when space is no longer the exclusive domain of big governments.
“One of the most rewarding aspects of this documentary was spending time with executives and engineers at these new space startups and witnessing the passion and intelligence they bring to their amazing endeavors,” says
Sheraz Sadiq, KQED Science television producer
. “Many of these brainy, bold individuals are in their 20s and 30s, much like the phenomenal team of young NASA engineers who helped America reach the moon more than 40 years ago.”
Since the retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2012, NASA can’t launch American astronauts to outer space and has to hitch rides to the International Space Station on Russian spacecraft for $70 million per seat. “Twenty or thirty years ago when I was growing up, you couldn’t really expect to go with anybody other than NASA or the Russians. And now there are probably five different companies that aspire to take you into orbit or sub-orbit,” says
George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic
, who is featured in the documentary. Founded by billionaire British entrepreneur Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic is on track to launch commercial service in 2014, rocketing space tourists on a $250,000 ride roughly 60 miles above Earth.
The documentary includes several other leaders of the new race to space:
Dan Berkenstock, Executive Vice-President and Co-Founder of Skybox Imaging
– Skybox’s high-resolution, small Earth-imaging satellites are being built in Mountain View and are scheduled to launch in late 2013.
Jeff Greason, President and CEO, XCOR Aerospace
– XCOR’s commercial rocket ship Lynx Mark 1 is scheduled to offer $95,000, half-hour flights to the edge of space and back in late 2014.
G. Scott Hubbard, Professor, Dept. of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University
– Hubbard worked at NASA for 20 years and is now the chief editor of New Space, a journal that tracks the impact of companies opening up space to new commercial applications.
Steve Jurvetson, Managing Director, DFJ
– Jurvetson is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur whose venture capital firm helps fund innovative companies such as Tesla Motors and SpaceX.
Sean Mahoney, CEO of Masten Space Systems
– Masten, an aerospace startup company in Mojave, California, has developed reusable rockets for unmanned suborbital flights that are being used by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and other customers.
Bob Richards, CEO of Moon Express
– Moon Express is a Mountain View startup that wants to eventually launch robotic unmanned missions to mine water and precious metals on the moon.
Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX
– In May 2012, SpaceX became the world’s first company to complete a commercial mission to the International Space Station; its founder, billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, thinks SpaceX can begin flying individuals to Mars in the next ten to fifteen years.
Silicon Valley Goes to Space
was produced by
, the largest science and environment reporting unit in California. The half-hour documentary will also be online at
, along with KQED’s latest multimedia science and environment videos and reports.
Support for KQED Science is provided by the National Science Foundation; The Follis Family Fund; Mary Van Voorhees Fund; S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation; The David B. Gold Foundation; The Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation; The Vadasz Family Foundation; Wyncote Foundation; Amgen Foundation and the members of KQED.
serves the people of Northern California with a public-supported alternative to commercial media. Home to the most listened-to public radio station in the nation, one of the highest rated public television services and a leader in interactive technology, KQED takes people of all ages on journeys of exploration — exposing them to new people, places and ideas.
A Trip to Baikonur
Friday, May 10, 2013
Today I’m excited to share a guest blog post from Kelley Alwood. I met Kelly on Twitter and I’ve so appreciated her continued support – she’s even joined my
crew. And now she’s agreed to write this post after just returning from a launch in Baikinor. I’m so excited to share this with you – enjoy!
Visiting the Baikonur Cosmodrome was a dream come true for this space geek. I mean, come on, this place is filled with so much history, it’s ridiculous. Many of the earliest achievements in space exploration happened here. From the launch of Sputnik 1 (the first artificial satellite) in 1957 to the launches of the first human (Yuri Gagarin) and first woman (Valentina Tereshkova) into space in 1961 and 1963, respectively. This record of significant accomplishments has continued with the launch of the first piece of the ISS in 1998 and the launch of all Russian crewed missions to date.
The Journey to Baikonur
My journey to Baikonur starts on, literally, the other side of the world (yes, it’s a 13 hour time difference between my house and Baikonur!). Getting to Baikonur from the West Coast of the U.S. is quite a trip. It’s about 15 hours of flight time to Moscow, followed by another 3.5 – 4 hour flight into the Krainy airport in Baikonur. Looking out the window as we were landing, I was struck by the flatness and dryness of the landscape. Upon deplaning from the rear stairwell of the Yak-42 aircraft, I got my first dose of the (in)famous Baikonur wind – it rarely let up during my four-day trip.
My plane landed just in time for the Soyuz launch of the
Progress 51 ISS resupply mission. It was about an hour drive from the airport to the launch viewing area over a bumpy road and through multiple security checkpoints. The launch viewing area is about 2 km (approx. 1.2 miles) away from the launch pad. Having witnessed launches from Cape Canaveral from about 5 miles (approx. 8 km) away, this felt VERY CLOSE! I got there with about 20 minutes to spare and stood out among the scrub brush waiting for the launch. The first sign that a launch is eminent is the support trusses swinging away from the rocket (this is visible with the naked eye from where we observed). Then, a fireball appears beneath the rocket and slowly the rocket starts to accelerate away from the ground, accumulating more and more speed. The best part, in my opinion, is when the sound wave hits you and you and feel it resonate throughout your body. It makes me wonder how it would feel to be aboard the rocket (maybe someday…).
The Cosmonaut Hotel
Because Baikonur is a controlled-access facility, I was escorted around at all times. I stayed at the Baikonur hotel, which is a relatively new facility and is very nice! It’s next door to the older Sputnik hotel.
Just across the street from my hotel was the “Cosmonaut Hotel” (where the cosmonauts/astronauts stay prior to launch). But they don’t let just anyone in there – there is a guarded gate. Fortunately, I ended up getting clearance to check it out! Behind the hotel building are some recreational areas complete with pool, tennis courts, and even a log cabin. The walking paths (the “avenue of the cosmonauts”) are lined with trees planted by the cosmonauts and astronauts that have launched from Baikonur.
This tree-lined walkway was one of the most awe-inspiring living monuments to the human space program that I have ever seen. The path starts with Yuri Gagarin’s tree, which is now quite large at over 50 years old! Each tree has a plaque in front of it with the cosmo-/astro-naut’s name, their country, and the year of their launch. It’s all in Russian, so learn the alphabet before you go if you want to try and read the names.
The Baikonur Cosmodrome Museum
The Baikonur Cosmodrome museum is, in a word, awesome. It’s an incredible collection of space-related artifacts. According to my guide, the traditional way to start the tour is by shaking the mannequin cosmonaut’s hand – who was I to argue with tradition?
The museum is filled with everything from
displays on the Cosmodrome’s history, to a cosmonaut
spacesuit, to a wall with photos of all the cosmonauts/astronauts who have launched from Baikonur. There are model rockets, displays including the first computers used at Baikonur and even a 3D map of the cosmodrome with a model of Sputnik 1 suspended overhead.
One of my favorite parts of the museum was the display of memorabilia from each of the crewed missions launched from Baikonur. Each display included mission patches, crew photos and other memorabilia donated by the crew. There was also a poster-sized photo of a Soyuz rocket launch that was signed by recent astronauts and cosmonauts to launch to the ISS from Baikonur. I even found the signatures of some of the current astronauts aboard the ISS!
The Museum Fun Continues
Outside the museum, there is even more fun to be had! As I rounded the corner of the museum, I saw what I thought was the vertical stabilizer of a space shuttle. As the full body of the spacecraft came into view, I realized it was a test model of the Buran – a Soviet orbital vehicle that made one unmanned spaceflight in 1988. The Buran has a staircase going up to the side and a model satellite inside its payload area. You can also climb a ladder up into the cockpit and try out the pilot’s seat.
Immediately adjacent to the Baikonur Cosmodrome Museum are the cottages of Yuri Gagarin (and other early cosmonauts) and Sergei Korolev (the lead Soviet rocket engineer and spacecraft designer during the Space Race). They have the inside of the cottages staged to look as they did during their time of use.
Walking around outside the museum you can also find a monument to Yuri Gagarin and some more spacecraft models.
Touring a Soyuz Launch Complex
In addition to touring the Baikonur Cosmodrome Museum, I also had the opportunity to tour one of the Soyuz launch complexes, including the assembly building and the launch pad. It was a rare rainy day in Baikonur for my tour, but I braved the cold, wind-driven rain for a chance to see where a Soyuz is launched – it was worth it! The truss structure that supports the rocket prior to launch is impressive!
Driving around the town of Baikonur, its difficult to get too far before finding another monument or piece of artwork dedicated to the many achievements in space exploration that occurred there. My two favorites were the full-scale Soyuz rocket and the Yuri Gagarin sculpture. After witnessing a Soyuz launch, it was a treat to get to walk right up to (and under) a model of the rocket. The Yuri Gagarin monument is a must-see. You HAVE to get a picture of you posing Gagarin-style next to him.
Daily Treasures of Baikonur
All of the well-known sights in Baikonur are as amazing (if not more) as I thought they would be. What I did not anticipate were the lesser-known treasures sprinkled around the Cosmodrome that I just happened to stumble across. For example, while touring the Soyuz assembly building at one of the launch complexes, I discovered the coolest Ping-Pong room EVER.
The food in Russia and Kazakhstan is an experience all in itself. In Baikonur, we ate all our meals at the hotel. Lunch typically consisted of 3 courses: salad, soup, and a meat dish. My favorite soup was the borsch, which is a beet-based soup. Dinner was typically also 3 courses. It started with appetizers including fruit, vegetables (usually cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers) and mixed meats and cheeses. Following that, we usually had a fish course and a meat course. One of my favorite dishes was manti, which is a dumpling filled with a spiced meat mixture and served with different types of sauce.
The Baikonur market is not to be missed. It’s partially outdoor under tents and the rest is in an open-air covered structure. They have tourist souvenirs, spices, fruits and vegetables, and even camel hair products!
Here’s a summary of the things I saw:
Baikonur Cosmodrome Museum
Gagarin and Korolev cottages
Soyuz assembly building and launch complex
Soyuz Launch (Progress 51 ISS resupply mission)
Baikonur and Sputnik hotels
Cosmonaut hotel grounds and avenue of trees
Baikonur is a meaningful destination for space enthusiast. Getting to see a Soyuz launch first-hand was an exhilarating experience and getting to walk the same steps as so many space explorers was something I will never forget. I feel privileged to have gotten the chance to set foot in this place and experience even just a small piece of it.
Meet Kelley Alwood – She is an aerospace engineer who dreams of one day going into space. Kelley grew up in Alexandria, VA and currently lives in Mountain View, CA. She received a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL and two M.S. degrees form Stanford University; one in Aeronautics & Astronautics and the other in Management Science & Engineering. As a Mechanical Engineer at
, she worked on both the
Mars Science Lab (MSL)
spacecraft. Kelley currently works at
as a satellite project manager. Outside of work, Kelley is involved in Girl Scouts and also enjoys travelling, cooking, yoga, and genealogy. She has her private pilot’s license.
Posted by Kelley Alwood, Satellite Program Manager
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