BlackSky Blog

BlackSky’s Blog

by | May 24, 2023

The robust small satellite constellation fueling BlackSky’s growth and fulfilling customer commitments

Authored by BlackSky Chief Operating Officer (COO) Nick Merski

In an era where data-driven insights and global monitoring capabilities have become indispensable, BlackSky has emerged as a leading provider of real-time, on demand intelligence and analytic solutions. At the heart of our operations lies an agile small satellite constellation, purpose-built to fulfill customer commitments but also pave a way for sustainable growth. BlackSky’s flexible constellation operationally thrives in the face of change and leverages the power of the broader service, as we build and operate a distributed network of space sensors.

Dynamic satellite operations

Unlike traditional satellite architectures, BlackSky’s constellation delivers high revisit imaging and analytic services without a dependency on an individual satellite. This agile approach enables us to strategically deploy capacity where and when we need it, meet customer services levels, and tailor the capability over time to meet market needs.

The system is designed with significant redundant reserve to eliminate impacts of any individual satellites that, as expected, will come in or out of service over time. We have built a scalable collection and delivery architecture to manage these instances ensuring our customers continue to be able to access insights from our system. Resiliency is built into all aspects of our architecture. By strategically planning the constellation’s coverage, we aim to optimize satellite usage, adapt to changing customer demands, and seamlessly replace satellites when necessary. The approach enables redundancy and flexibility, ensuring we can deliver consistent and reliable services to our customers. This flexibility minimizes friction and gives confidence that customer commitments are fulfilled without disruptions and allows us to scale to meet growing needs efficiently. This only happens with a significant commitment to reliable automated systems. BlackSky’s automated operations keep our satellites focused on our customer’s needs. The systems are constantly conducting, operations, propulsion maneuvers, maintenance and most importantly optimizing our imagery requests to deliver timely information. With this approach a piece of the system like a satellite coming in and out of operation can be addressed as a part of normal course of business. We harness the dynamic nature of the constellation to our advantage.

Rapid response and increased capacity

One of the key strengths of the BlackSky constellation is our ability to rapidly respond to customer needs. With multiple satellites on orbit, we can quickly redirect resources to capture high-priority imagery or collect data from specific locations up to 15 times per day. This agility provides customers with timely and actionable intelligence, enhancing their decision-making processes through satellite imagery coupled with real time data and analytics when minutes matter.

The constellation’s design allows for increased capacity as customer demands grow. Our architecture is built to be elastic, allowing us to scale both space, ground and delivery methods to adapt with our customers; allowing us to offer a suite of services without compromising on quality. This mindset ensures that we can continue to evolve with our partners and remain at the forefront of the geospatial intelligence industry, catering to a wide range of customer requirements of today and tomorrow.

Continuity and data fusion

To offer meaningful insights, timely data is critical. The fusion of data across the satellite network offers a different and comprehensive and holistic perspective, empowering customers with a deeper understanding of their areas of interest when coupled with our first of its kind AI and analytics platform — but it’s only part of what our customers need. This is why we focus on optimizing the whole equation. We combine data from this distributed space network with, AI detection at scale and all driven by a ground and customer data platform that is built on the premise of customer flexibility in order to be able to provide timely data that can be relied upon.

The constellation is a visible representation of how we have approached the design of our broader architecture to harness the power of disaggregation, enabling, flexibility, and scalability. By operating a network of interconnected satellites ensures the delivery of geospatial intelligence services, fulfilling current customer commitments and supporting future growth. With dynamic satellite operations, and being customer data platform driven, and with leading multi-int data fusion techniques, BlackSky stands as a trusted partner in the evolving world of global monitoring and geospatial analytics.