ICEYE: satellites able to see the night and through the clouds
This great technological progress has been achieved by the Finnish company ICEYE, which is creating a constellation of satellites to create synthetic images of the Earth during the first capture of images with a precision less than one meter using a small satellite. In the first images captured, you can clearly see how oil is loaded and unloaded in the deposits.
The company was founded in 2015 and has compiled in recent years some $ 65 million in financing. Thanks to this, they have already deployed three of the five satellites that will form the last constellation from 2020 to take these precise photos. Satellites are equivalent in size to a small refrigerator and gravitate around Earth in low Earth orbit.
The first satellite was launched in January 2018 aboard the Polar satellite launcher in India. Since then, they have launched the other two satellites and plan to launch two more by the end of the year. From there, the goal is to launch a commercial service and the reach of these services continues to grow, in addition to having 18 satellites in total over the next 2 years.
How did they reach a precision of less than one meter? The key is in the type of camera. Most satellites that take pictures from the space use optical instruments Like the cameras we use. However, ICEYE It uses synthetic aperture radar technology. The "synthetic" part is due to the fact that a small antenna moving over a long distance can imitate the resolution of a larger antenna.
Each satellite costs "only" 2 million euros
Basically, we are faced with a radar that uses the movement of this antenna and combines it with the time the satellite flies over a target. multidimensional images from the surface even through the clouds or day and night. The end result is images very similar to those obtained with conventional radar and similar to night vision goggles. At first glance, they may be difficult to interpret, but knowing where to look can offer very valuable information.
Each the radar weighs 100 kg, and the cost of each small satellite is "only" 2 million eurosin front of 100 million They usually cost the normal ones. In the comparison plans, they took real photos with the satellite EU Sentinel-2, which has a resolution of up to 10 meters, or 20 times lower.
Can be used at night or through clouds, this type of satellite can monitor any type of situation or disaster with extreme accuracy. For example, at the beginning of the year, they monitored the breakup of the Brumadinho Dam in Brazil, which killed 248 people. Despite the cloudy sky, they were able to record where the mud was going and the mud dragging the break.
As we have seen in the photos, to demonstrate the accuracy of the satellites, we have analyzed the ports of Nigeria (Port Harcourt) and Australia (Brisbane) with a accuracy of 55 centimeters, able to analyze the oil load in each zone, which can be useful for estimating oil reserves in the world.
Initially, the company wanted to focus on monitoring Arctic thaw for scientific purposes and to ensure the safe passage of goods, but it realized that it had many other uses, such as than that demonstrated by the oil or gas industry, as well as: to monitor natural disasters Who knows what other uses they can discover in the years to come.