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BlackSky upgrades satellite imaging tech for US defence department

BlackSky hopes to accelerate the US Department of Defence’s ability to leverage low-cost, high-performance, small imaging satellites for tactics, techniques and procedures. 

BlackSky has announced that it has upgraded the satellite imaging capabilities of its commercial satellite constellation with the unveiling of its next-generation Gen-3 satellite architecture.

In addition, the company also announced it has conducted the preliminary design review of its Gen-3 satellite design for the US Army Tactical GEOINT (TACGEO) prototype programme as part of a multi-year contract with the Defence Innovation Unit (DIU).

The commercial constellation expansion features Gen-3 satellites capable of producing images with 50-cm resolution and of hosting multiple sensors including short-wave infrared (SWIR).

The improved resolution and enhanced spectral diversity of the Gen-3 satellites hopes to extend BlackSky’s ability to provide real-time insights to its customers in a broad set of conditions, including nighttime, low light, and challenging weather.

The TACGEO programme is designed to support the Department of Defence’s needs for responsive, space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) for tactical applications.

The TACGEO programme looks to demonstrate the tactical utility of a single satellite of Gen-3’s capabilities. BlackSky’s Gen-3 satellites will enable rapid distribution of highly responsive insights to warfighters to support concurrent war games, exercises, and combat training centre events and help measure technology readiness.

The TACGEO project leverages BlackSky’s low-latency constellation architecture to address a growing need for responsive intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for the tactical ISR missions.

BlackSky hopes to accelerate the Department of Defence’s ability to leverage low-cost, high-performance, small imaging satellites to develop critical concept of operations (CONOPS) including tactics, techniques and procedures, and to inform future operational systems.

The contract was awarded to BlackSky in January 2020 after a competitive bid process. The TACGEO satellite programme is now well into the design and development phase and is on track to launch and demonstrate operational capabilities in 2022.

“BlackSky is committed to ensuring the success of our customers’ missions. Our strategy of combining rapid evolution and deployment of space-based remote sensing capabilities with an industry-leading AI-driven analytics and delivery platform will ensure that our customers are always the first to know,” said Brian O’Toole, CEO of BlackSky. “We are very proud to have reached this performance milestone. It demonstrates our ability to leverage a next-generation space and analytics architecture to deliver new insights at a pace and economics unprecedented in the industry.

The Gen-3 design an improved version of Gen-2 system that is currently in production with BlackSky’s satellite partner, LeoStella.