Space News reports that a new outfit is in town with yet another constellation of small satellites.  A Seattle-based firm called BlackSky is planning to launch a constellation of 60 50kg Earth imaging satellites, each with a ground resolution of 1m. The firm has ordered initial satellites in the series from Spaceflight Services Inc  – a firm better known for its launch arrangement activities – with the first two to be launched later this year aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 flight via Spaceflight Services Inc’s SHERPA spacetug. Each spacecraft, which operates in a 450km orbit, will have a design life of three years.

According to the report and interview with BlackSky’s Chief Technology Officer, Paul Wegner, funding for the venture is coming from RRE Venture Capital, Vulcan Capital and Razor’s Edge Ventures.

Artist's impression of SHERPA carrier craft which will launch BlackSky's first two spacecraft. Courtesy: Spaceflight Services Inc.

Artist’s impression of SHERPA carrier craft which will launch BlackSky’s first two spacecraft. Courtesy: Spaceflight Services Inc.

Comment by David Todd:  Having a 60 satellite constellation to allow quick optical imaging revisits over a spot of land makes sense.  However, a 50kg spacecraft is not really large enough to mount a telescope with large enough aperture to achieve a sharp image with a resolution of 1m, notwithstanding all the other subsystems it would need for power, transmission, attitude accuracy and thermal stability.  We estimate that a spacecraft of at least 100kg is required. As such, we remained unconvinced that BlackSky can beat the laws of physics.