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Planet prepares to launch another type of imagery satellites to expand data-gathering operations

An artist’s depiction of a Tanager satellite in orbit.


PARIS Planet is adding a different type of imagery satellite to its products, the most recent expansion of the business’s data-gathering operations.

The business named the brand new satellites Tanager — named following a bird family, just like the existing lines of Dove and Pelican satellites that it manufactures. But unlike those satellites, that have cameras and sensors capturing images in exactly the same range because the eye, the Tanager satellites will capture “hyperspectral” imagery, which divides the light spectrum into a huge selection of bands of light.

Planet co-founder and chief strategy officer Robbie Schingler, talking with CNBC at the 2022 International Astronautical Congress, said the business use the hyperspectral satellites initially to detect methane output, saying it’s “the cheapest hanging fruit” and contains implications for business such as for example coal and oil, dairy farms and waste landfills.

Tanager satellites will collect 420 bands of spectrum, Schingler said, noting that detecting methane requires detecting just four bands.

“We made a decision to create a full-range imaging spectrometer,” Schingler said, with uses cases beyond methane to markets like “defense intelligence, like seeing disturbed earth things such as burying something or digging a tunnel.”

Planet aims to then tap customers in sectors like agriculture, mining, and intelligence with the Tanager line, with Schingler saying that “hyperspectral data from space is bound” as “the very best hyperspectral sensors are either super classified, or they’re in planes.”

The business is building the Tanager satellites with exactly the same spacecraft bus that is the primary body of a satellite as its Pelican line, to leverage Planet’s vertical method of manufacturing. The initial two Tanager demonstration satellites are set to launch in 2023.

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