9 Earth-Imaging Start-ups to Watch

A tech boom will shake up commercial satellite imaging

8 min read
9 Earth-Imaging Start-ups to Watch
Photo: UrtheCast

Words like “provocative,” “disruptive,” and “game-changing” are rarely applied to the staid world of satellite imaging. But that’s exactly the kind of talk the industry is generating, with the successful launches of more than two dozen Earth-imaging satellites in the last few months and the planned launches of yet more by year’s end.

Those spacecraft are being lofted not by traditional aerospace players but by venture-capital-funded start-ups. What’s more, the satellites cost an order of magnitude less than traditional spacecraft, and in many cases they’ll be networked in large constellations capable of revisiting sites far more frequently than what’s now possible. So even though their per-pixel resolution won’t compete with satellites from market leader DigitalGlobe, they’ll be able to provide much fresher data—in some cases, revisiting sites up to several times a day—at a much cheaper price.

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Top Tech 2022: A Special Report

Preview two dozen exciting technical developments that are in the pipeline for the coming year

1 min read
Photo of the lower part of a rocket in an engineering bay.

NASA’s Space Launch System will carry Orion to the moon.

Frank Michaux/NASA

At the start of each year, IEEE Spectrum attempts to predict the future. It can be tricky, but we do our best, filling the January issue with a couple of dozen reports, short and long, about developments the editors expect to make news in the coming year.

This isn’t hard to do when the project has been in the works for a long time and is progressing on schedule—the coming first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, for example. For other stories, we must go farther out on a limb. A case in point: the description of a hardware wallet for Bitcoin that the company formerly known as Square (which recently changed its name to Block) is developing but won’t officially comment on. One thing we can predict with confidence, though, is that Spectrum readers, familiar with the vicissitudes of technical development work, will understand if some of these projects don’t, in fact, pan out. That’s still okay.

Engineering, like life, is as much about the journey as the destination.

See all stories from our Top Tech 2022 Special Report

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