Deterrence by Observation: Satellites In Orbit

Published on 09 Aug 2023

satellites in orbit

The whitepaper "Deterrence by Observation" unveils a new era in intelligence-gathering satellites, marked by transparency, collaboration, and the significant role of commercial private enterprise. As the Earth observation satellite count surged from around 10 in 2000 to over 1,000 by 2022, commercial companies like Planet are transforming the landscape of geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) and facilitating rapid technological advancements.

This whitepaper published by Planet demonstrates how commercial satellite data, exemplified by Planet's agile aerospace methodology and advanced analytics, contributes to increased transparency, collaboration, and effective decision-making during conflicts. Commercial space technology enhances national security and fosters global security, trust, and accountability.

Capitalizing on the Commercial Space Opportunity

The exponential growth of satellites in orbit, driven by decreasing costs and smaller satellite sizes, led to a thriving commercial space industry. This industry's annual private investment escalated from $300 million to $10 billion between 2012 and 2021, with projections indicating it could reach a value of over $1 trillion by 2040. Earth observation services, specifically, are anticipated to generate revenue of more than $25 billion by 2040.

The New Normal for GEOINT

The COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the importance of integrating commercial technology into governmental operations. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and other defense and intelligence communities began incorporating unclassified data from commercial sources like Planet, enhancing their capabilities and project execution. Integration of commercial imagery led to increased collaboration, distribution of imagery contracts, and transparent sharing of data.

Planet's Agile Aerospace Methodology

Planet's agile aerospace approach to satellite development focuses on rapid iteration and scalability. Shared launches, miniaturized and commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) parts, and modular architecture enable cost-effective manufacturing, launch, and operation. The philosophy ensures adaptability, faster technology integration, and customer feedback incorporation.

Putting Theory into Practice

Planet's commitment to agile aerospace is evident through the launch of over 500 satellites since 2012. The company operates around 200 satellites that provide diverse imagery, making data accessible to a wide audience. The transparency and scientific integrity of Planet's satellite data and analytical products empower governments, businesses, and citizens.

Lifting the Fog of War with Commercial Space Data

The invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops in 2022 highlighted the power of commercial satellite imagery in times of conflict. Open source intelligence, augmented by real-time commercial data, facilitated rapid awareness, analysis, and decision-making. Governments and NGOs relied on commercial satellite imagery to assess damage, monitor military buildups, and support humanitarian efforts.

Introducing Planet Analytics

Planet Analytics addresses the limitations of manual satellite data analysis by providing automated, real-time insights through a cloud-based feed. Object detection, land cover classification, and change detection feeds enable leaders to make informed decisions swiftly during conflicts.

How Planet Analytics Supports Ukraine

Planet's analytics played a pivotal role in assessing battle damage and monitoring military buildup during the invasion of Ukraine. The Saki Air Base incident and tracking military infrastructure exemplify the value of rapid, real-time analytics in crises.


Download Planet's whitepaper to learn more about how Planet satellites help increase transparency during conflict.


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