Urthecast Planning Large SAR + Optical Constellation

According to recent news reports, Urthecast is planning to launch a satellite constellation of optical and SAR satellites by the end of the decade. Urthecast started its space business by installing Earth observation cameras on the ISS. If this constellation comes through, it will be the first commercial private SAR + optical constellation. Exciting times ahead for remote sensing, especially for radar imaging. One wonders how the general public will feel about the SAR imagery, because right now they can pretty much understand what optical imagery is showing them, as long as they stick to true color imagery. How they will feel about the “colorless” gray-scale intensity SAR imagery remains to be seen. Of course, with the possibilities of nearly concurrent optical and SAR imagery, the applications are endless, starting with the through-cloud and day-night capability of SAR imagery to support optical imagery.

The proposed constellation is expected to comprise 16 satellites (8 optical and 8 SAR) flying in two orbital planes, with each plane consisting of four satellite pairs, equally-spaced around the orbit plane. Each pair of satellites will consist of a dual-mode, high-resolution optical satellite (both imagery and video) and a dual-frequency (X-band and L-band) SAR satellite (X-band and L-band) flying in tandem.

See Urthecast official announcement about the constellation here, and a good news article about the plan here.

P. S. Here is a non-related but interesting article about the kind of business prospects Urthecast is stepping into.

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About WQ

I received my PhD (2013) in Remote Sensing, Earth and Space Science at the Dept. of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA, under a Fulbright fellowship. Currently, I'm an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Space Science at Institute of Space Technology (IST), Islamabad, Pakistan, where I have been a founding member of the Geospatial Research & Education Lab (GREL). My general expertise is in Remote Sensing where I have worked with various remote sensing datasets through my career, while for my PhD thesis I specifically worked on Remote Sensing using SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) and Oceanography, working extensively on development of techniques to measure ocean surface currents from space-borne SAR intensity images and interferometric data. My research interests are: Remote sensing, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery and interferometric data processing & analysis, Visible/Infrared/High-resolution satellite image processing & analysis, Oceanography, Earth system study and modelling, LIDAR data processing and analysis, Scientific programming. I am a reviewer for IEEE Transactions on Geoscience & Remote Sensing, Forest Ecosystems, GIScience & Remote Sensing, Journal of African Earth Sciences, and Italian Journal of Agronomy. I am an alumnus of Pakistan National Physics Talent Contest (NPTC), an alumnus of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, a Fulbright alumnus, and the Pakistan National Point of Contact for Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC). I was an invited speaker at the TEDxIslamabad event held in Nov., 2014. I've served as mentor in the NASA International Space App Challenge Islamabad events in April 2015 and April 2016.

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