Saturday, May 31, 2014

BlackBridge Secures $22 Million for New Satellite Constellation

          by Chuck Black

It's hard to believe that Lethbridge, Alberta based BlackBridge already controls one of the larger privately owned satellite constellations in the world. But the firm, which currently owns five identical Earth imaging satellites through its Berlin based RapidEye subsidiary, has just secured additional funding to expand its network.

The five, original RapidEye satellites lined up for testing in 2008. All were launched into orbit on August 29, 2008, using a DNEPR-1 rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Photo c/o SSTL

As outlined in the May 15th, 2014 press release "BlackBridge Secures $22 Million for New Satellite Constellation," the new funding was provided from the Bank of Montreal (BMO) and the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) to begin the development of a new satellite constellation and for the renewal of existing credit facilities.

Details of the new constellation concept, which BlackBridge calls the "RapidEye+" were unveiled during a recent public presentation, according to the May 27th, 2014 Spatial Source article "BlackBridge unveils new mission, secures $22M."

According to the article, the new constellation will be "composed of five satellites with an imaging capacity that will far exceed the current RapidEye constellation’s capacity of 5 million km2 per day." It will be capable of measurements across fourteen different electromagnetic bands "strategically placed for applications in agriculture, vegetation monitoring, land cover discrimination, water quality, and many others," plus include a panchromatic channel, sensitive to all the colors of the visible spectrum, with a resolution of better than one metre.

Firms like Blackbridge, UrtheCast and others make Earth images taken under different electromagnetic frequencies and conditions to provide geographic and/or spatially referenced images which can be used by various industries for planning and resource management. The industry tools and methodologies were highlighted in the June 13th, 2010 post on "Understanding and Profiting from Geomatics." Image c/o MDA and CSA.

The RapidEye+ constellation is expected to launch in 2019, which would allow for a significant overlap with the operation of the current RapidEye constellation.

The original RapidEye constellation was built by Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) after funding was secured through the European Union, the State of Brandenburg (Germany) and a banking consortium consisting of Commerzbank, Export Development Canada (EDC) and the KfW Banking Group. BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) acted as prime contractor for the project under a contract issued by the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) in 2004.

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