Satellite imaging company Axelspace released the first photographs from its first GRUS small satellite this week and announced plans to build and launch three more satellites, two of its own and one with Fukui Satellite Technology & Research Association (FSTRA).
The GRUS-1A satellite was launched on December 27, 2018 onboard a Soyuz rocket from the Russian Vostochny Cosmodrome as a part of a larger rideshare including commercial and Russian government satellites. Weighing in under 100 kilograms, GRUS is capable of taking 2.5 meter resolution images in panchromatic and multispectral bands.
Two multispectral images with resolution of 2.5 meters were released last week, one of Haneda airport and the other of central Toyko. Axelspace says the images are in unprocessed form with commercial imagery likely to look different once processing adjustments are made. Availability of commercial imagery via the AxelGlobe online platform is expected in May of this year.
Axelspace will add two more GRUS satellites, GRUS-1B and GRUS-1C, next year with a target launch date starting in the second half of 2020 and using a Soyuz via Vostochny Cosmodrome. The third, “Fukui Prefectural Satellite,” will be onboard the same launch. The three satellites will be a part of Axelspace’s AxelGlobal infrastructure designed to eventually capture imagery of the entire Earth’s landmass every day, with Axelspace operating the Fukui as a part of its GRUS constellation.
Fukui Prefectural Satellite (FPS) will be the first AxelGlobal satellite not owned by Axelspace. FSTRA will effectively hold the pink slip while Axelspace operates it and FSTRA will get higher frequency imagery of its areas of interest while Axelspace will be able to get imagery via FPS; think of it as a pooling of resources with FSTRA being able to outsource satellite operations within a constellation.
Axelspace is entering an increasingly crowded imagery market. Satellogic has signed a contract to launch up to 90 satellites capable of providing 1 meter imagery, Planet has over 150 satellites in orbit on any given day, most providing 3-5 meter resolution with a smaller group capable of sub-meter resolution. BlackSky, a division of Spaceflight, has two 1 meter resolution satellites in orbit and is working towards building a constellation of 60 satellites.