Rocket Lab Flight 17 launch December 15 (Source: Rocket Lab)

Rocket Lab successfully launches first Synspective SAR satellite

On December 15, 2020, Rocket Lab successfully conducted its 17th Electron mission, putting the first synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite into orbit for Japan-based Synspective.  “The Owl’s Night Begins” was launched from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand at 10:09 UTC, 15 December 2020 and successfully deployed the Synspective’s StriX-α to a 500km circular orbit.

“Congratulations to the team at Synspective for the successful deployment of their first satellite,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck. “We’re proud to be able to continue to provide dedicated launch opportunities for small satellite customers like Synspective.” 

The StriX-α satellite will demonstrate SAR technology developed by Synspective to image millimetre-level changes to the Earth’s surface from space. StriX-α is the first of more than thirty commercial satellites planned by Synspective towards a constellation imaging the planet on a daily basis. Applications for the SAR data include urban development planning, construction and infrastructure monitoring, and disaster response across Asia. 

Synspective’s SAR satellite technology was developed through a Japanese government program and picked up by the company for commercial development and use.  StriX-a is in the 100kg satellites class with a five-meter-long antenna. The full StriX satellite constellation will deliver ground resolution of 1 to 3 meters of the world on a daily basis. A StriX-β (Strix Beta) satellite is expected to be launched in 2021, with a total of four commercial satellites expected in orbit by 2022.  

More commercial SAR satellites are expected to fill the skies in the months to come. Capella Space has two more satellites in Florida to be launched onboard an upcoming SpaceX rideshare mission along with Umbra Labs’ first satellite. PredaSAR is expected to announce its launch schedule for 2021 at the beginning of the year.

Doug Mohney

Doug Mohney, a principal at Cidera Analytics, has been working and writing about IT and satellite industries for over 20 years. His real world experience including stints at two start-ups, a commercial internet service provider that went public in 1997 for $150 million and a satellite internet broadband company. Follow him on Twitter at DougonTech or contact him at dmohney139 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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