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Swarms of Small Satellites Set To Deliver Close To Real-Time Imagery of Earth

Unknown Lamer posted about 3 months ago | from the mantrid-arm-thingies-with-cameras dept.

Space 112

ananyo writes "A swarm of small satellites set to deliver close to real-time imagery of swathes of the planet is launching today. San Francisco-based Planet Labs, founded in 2010 by three former NASA scientists, is scheduled to launch 28 of its 'Doves' on 9 January. Each toaster-sized device weighs about 5 kilograms and can take images at a resolution of 3–5 metres. Meanwhile Skybox Imaging plans to launch a swarm of 24 satellites, each weighing about 100 kilograms, which will take images of 1 meter resolution or better. Skybox launched its first satellite on 21 November (and captured the first HD video of the world from space) and plans to launch another this year, followed by the remainder between 2015 and 2017. In a first — at least for civilian satellites — Skybox's devices will also stream short segments of near-live high-resolution video footage of the planet. So, too, will UrtheCast, a start-up based in Vancouver, Canada, whose cameras will hitch a ride on the International Space Station. Because the swarms are still to be launched, scientists have yet to fully assess the quality of the imagery. But the satellites' spatial resolutions of 1–5 metres are much higher than those of most scientific satellites. Landsat, NASA's Earth-observation workhorse, for example, has a resolution of 15–100 metres depending on the spectral frequency, with 30 metres in the visible-light range."

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112 comments

HD (3, Informative)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about 3 months ago | (#45909811)

I'm sure film cameras have been in space before and they are much higher quality than HD.

Re:HD (1)

s122604 (1018036) | about 3 months ago | (#45909881)

It makes you wonder if Satellites that small can achieve 1 meter resolution, what can the latest KH spy sats with their high focal length precision optics do

Re:HD (1)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about 3 months ago | (#45909903)

They can probably see you typing in the password or your phone.

Re:HD (4, Interesting)

bob_super (3391281) | about 3 months ago | (#45909995)

But they're apparently not overhead often enough to distinguish a wedding from a terrorist training camp.

Re:HD (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45910185)

But they're apparently not overhead often enough to distinguish a wedding from a terrorist training camp.

Well it would help if the guests did not bring their AK-47s to the ceremony and empty their magazine shooting up into the air. Try throwing rice not lead.

Re:HD (2)

bob_super (3391281) | about 3 months ago | (#45910245)

Images of a hillbilly wedding in the Deep South just flashed in front of my eyes, including the outrage if you told them to put down their precious weapons.

Re: HD (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45910361)

Yeah but those are shotguns, an they are there to ensure the groom doesn't attempt to flee!

Re:HD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45914565)

But they're apparently not overhead often enough to distinguish a wedding from a terrorist training camp.

Well it would help if the guests did not bring their AK-47s to the ceremony and empty their magazine shooting up into the air. Try throwing rice not lead.

Brilliant reasoning. If you don't take local customs into consideration everything that isn't McDonald's looks suspicious.

Re:HD (4, Informative)

deroby (568773) | about 3 months ago | (#45910347)

Using toaster-size satellites, I very much doubt so.

I seem to remember that doing so is impossible using 'normal' optics due simple physics. IIRC there is a limit to the resolution (expressed in radians) you can get for a given frequency for a given lens . Given the distance above our head these things fly this means there is a 'hard' maximum resolution these have and given what I remember from the article it was quite a bit above the ability to read the screen on your phone. The same /article/ (for the love of god I can't remember whether it was in print or some blog or something) stipulated that those pictures you see where they show you the playing-cards a man is holding are actually aerial pictures taken from specialised planes who happen to fly a LOT lower to the ground and also can carry big (heavy) lenses more easily.

PS: I mention 'normal optics' because apparently (same long forgotten source) it should be possible to get much higher resolution by combining different satellites looking at the same target but flying some distance apart and combining their 'view' using some fancy mathematics.

Doing some googling I stumble upon this that seems to conform the above : http://cosmoquest.org/forum/archive/index.php/t-2500.html [cosmoquest.org]

Re:HD (1)

CaptQuark (2706165) | about 3 months ago | (#45914525)

Unfortunately, most of your citations are from discussions back in 2007 when a 5MP camera was state of the art.

Imaging sensors, digital signal processors, and optics have all improved substantially since then. I'm not saying the quality is an order of magnitude better, but some of those calculations might need to be reviewed.

~~

Re:HD (4, Informative)

kyrsjo (2420192) | about 3 months ago | (#45914845)

The problem isn't the resolution of the sensor chip (5 MPix), but the angular resolution of the optics, which is limited by diffraction (wave physics phenomenon) to some quantity which is dependent on the aperture of the lens. Bigger apperture (diameter of the light-opening) => higher angular resolution.

The other problem is that satelites are quite far up, so you get less spatial resolution (cm on the ground) per unit angular resolution than you would get by being closer (putting the camera on a plane).

The diffraction limit puts a hard limit on the achievable resolution no matter the quality of optics and sensor, and if you want to increase that limit, you need a bigger diameter telescope. This is why people are talking about "2 meter" and "5 meter" etc. mirrors on astronomical telescopes.

The father of this post mentions that it is possible to get around this problem by using more than one satelite (or the same satelite at two different points in its orbit), effectively creating a much larger aperture. This is called syntetic aperture, and for this to work you need to record both the amplitude and phase of the incoming wave. It works great for radar applications as the wave used here is slow enough to be followed by electronics, but visible light is just way to fast and we can only record incident power (amplitude^2) and thus cannot do an off-line computation of the interference patterns wanted.

Re:HD (3, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about 3 months ago | (#45910179)

The sats that are small (Doves) get only 3-5 meter resolution.
The much larger Skybox 1 meter resolution are not that small, weighing 100kg.

3 to 5 meters misses car sized objects, or at best maps them into a single pixel.
(Although by combining many subsequent frames you could achieve a better simulated resolution).

So this is not likely to be useful for much besides measuring snowfall, forest fires, and storms.
The 1 meter Skybox may be of greater interest, because you could track cattle and traffic in real time given enough of them in orbit.

But 24 or 28 units aren't going to be able to support much useful coverage, as they would be hard pressed target more than a couple location of interest at a time. (Which is a good thing, in light of all the governmental spying).

Re:HD (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | about 3 months ago | (#45910271)

The much larger Skybox 1 meter resolution are not that small, weighing 100kg.

That's pretty small, compared to the ~2000kg competition.

Re:HD (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 3 months ago | (#45910741)

"Because the swarms are still to be launched, scientists have yet to fully assess the quality of the imagery."

Understatement of the year.

Re:HD (2)

Stuntmonkey (557875) | about 3 months ago | (#45910805)

To get much better than Skybox a larger optic wouldn't help. They are achieving an angular resolution of about 0.35 arcseconds, and because of the blurring effects of the atmosphere, at visible wavelengths this is about as fine a resolution you can achieve regardless of optics used.

There may be some ways to use adaptive optics or lucky imaging. But they would be very difficult to apply given the rapid motion of the camera relative to the atmosphere. And they would apply only to a very limited spot on the ground, not to an extended area like what's being imaged here. For wide-area imaging I think Skybox has pretty well optimized it to get the best achievable resolution in the smallest possible box (diffraction implies an optic diameter of at least 15 inches or so).

Re:HD (1)

djdanlib (732853) | about 3 months ago | (#45909927)

They sure have, but seeing what that was exposed on that film takes a while when you have to retrieve it from a satellite.

Re:HD (3, Informative)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 3 months ago | (#45910259)

No, they'd drop the film via parachute and it got picked up by the navy. The highest resolution they got was 1ft.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corona_(satellite) [wikipedia.org]

Re:HD (1)

spacefight (577141) | about 3 months ago | (#45910943)

The big question is, what can state-of-the art spy sats track these days at what resolution? Retina scans?

Re:HD (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 3 months ago | (#45912329)

No, I think there's diminishing returns there. We knew they could read news print by at least the late 80s. Much smaller than that and I really don't see the utility. I think where we'd likely be shocked is in the wavelengths outside the visible spectrum they're using as well as automated targeting and signal processing. One of the problems with the old film sats was how few pictures they could take and the armies of people it would take to analyze and likely miss things because they're human. I bet the software they use to analyze the data they collect is amazing. Not to mention, I suspect we have munitions in space.

Re:HD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45913235)

While I am sure that they use software to look at the images, humans are still used.

It is very tough to beat the pattern recognition abilities of what is between the ears of a trained human.

Re:HD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45911309)

KH-11 had a Hubble-like mirror, the resolution was up to 15 cm and the pictures were radiotransmitted in real time. KH-12 and 13 are believed to have better optics.

Re:HD (1)

kyrsjo (2420192) | about 3 months ago | (#45914855)

There are also other ways. The Lunar Orbiter probes launced by the US in the 60s used a film camera + automated film development. The images where then scanned and sent back to earth - the quality was pretty good. The main problem was that the computing power required to handle the scanned images (which I believe turned out as terrabytes of image data after digitizing of the old tapes by the LORIP project) just wasn't available at that time. If my memory serves me right, the camera system was probably based off contemporary spy satelites.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_Orbiter_program [wikipedia.org]

Re:HD (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45909975)

I wonder what Number 4 thinks of this.

Be Seeing You!

Re:HD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45911581)

I wonder what Number 4 thinks of this.

That would be telling.

Signed,
4.

Re:HD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45911613)

I don't know about Number 4, but I'm sure that Number 5 looks forward to all the new input.

OMG!!! THEY will know i drink starbucks (1)

alen (225700) | about 3 months ago | (#45909843)

they will know every time i take the train too

Re:OMG!!! THEY will know i drink starbucks (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45909981)

WE KNOW ALREADY

Re:OMG!!! THEY will know i drink starbucks (1)

icebike (68054) | about 3 months ago | (#45910193)

You're taking the train like a good boy, so they don't have to worry about you. You are already under control.

Military spy satellites (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45909933)

I believe the military already has this capability. I saw them track a subject on a bicycle in real time, in the documentary film "Enemy of the State."

Kessler Syndrome (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45909971)

Just what we need. More crap in orbit.

Re:Kessler Syndrome (3, Insightful)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about 3 months ago | (#45910065)

Orbital space is very very very large. Vast. Immense. It is damn near impossible for it to be cluttered. Don't buy into the FUD.

Re:Kessler Syndrome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45910199)

Perhaps, since there are only a few satellites at the moment. But what about when people get the bright idea to put up many thousands or millions of similar devices?

Re:Kessler Syndrome (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45910277)

Orbital space is very large, Immense. The subset that is low earth orbit is smaller. And it is crowded. Folks launch things but they don't always provide a safe way to bring them back to Earth. And yes, they do run into one another. And I've yet to hear of anything launched into orbit inexpensively. Care to consider how small an object will destroy a satellite at orbital velocity?

Re:Kessler Syndrome (1, Insightful)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about 3 months ago | (#45911205)

Orbital space is very very very large. Vast. Immense. It is damn near impossible for it to be cluttered. Don't buy into the FUD.

Yes, like the oceans. Infinite in size! We could never pollute that much!

Re:Kessler Syndrome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45911957)

Useful orbital space isn't that large, and orbits at similar altitudes have the annoying habit of intersecting twice per. Once that happens, you get a whole lot more bits of clutter filling those and similar orbits.

Even a satellite hitting an old retired satellite has happened before, and untrackable bits of debris (paint flakes, fragments from explosive bolts, etc, etc) can ruin your day if they hit your spacecraft at up to 35,000 mph relative velocity.

Great work, done by Americans (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45909977)

No surprise here. America still kicking ass and taking names in the space business. While China struggles to launch a monkey into orbit, private American companies are now dominating the space race. And where are the Europeons? Has Britain even launched a satellite yet? Ever? Well of course if we told them to launch one they would. America's whipping boy.

Anyway, good job here. Can't wait to see the results!

Re:Great work, done by Americans (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45910137)

And where are the Europeons?

Russia is part of Europe geographically and Russia is how NASA gets to space these days.

Re:Great work, done by Americans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45910397)

The Ural Mountains delineate the border between Europe and Asia. 75% of Russia lies in Asia.

Re:Great work, done by Americans (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 3 months ago | (#45910425)

Bzzzzrrrt.

75% of Russia is in Asia.

The actual launches and landings occur in Khazakstan which is not part of either Russia or Europe.

NASA gets to orbit a number of different ways, including some private companies nowadays.

Re:Great work, done by Americans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45910511)

Ever heard of ESA? Because your oh-so-great United States of Fucktards pulled the plug on space missions, the ISS now relies on European ATVs for supplies, just to give you an example. We humble Europeans might not do the megalomaniac stuff you Americans do (well.. did!), but without us your space program would halt to a complete standstill.

Re:Great work, done by Americans (1)

Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) | about 3 months ago | (#45910813)

No surprise here. America still kicking ass and taking names in the space business. While China struggles to launch a monkey into orbit, private American companies are now dominating the space race. And where are the Europeons? Has Britain even launched a satellite yet? Ever? Well of course if we told them to launch one they would. America's whipping boy.

Anyway, good job here. Can't wait to see the results!

We did. Back in the 60's and it is still up there. It's called "prospero X1". Launched from Woomera atop a black arrow rocket.

1 meter resolution? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45910027)

pardon me while i whip this out

Re:1 meter resolution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45910781)

If you did anything, we couldn't see it.

Re:1 meter resolution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45911037)

I think you are confusing meter with centimeter, here.

Homeland security (2)

pjbgravely (751384) | about 3 months ago | (#45910087)

We will never see the images. They will be declared top secret in the name of terrorism by homeland security.

Where I am there is aerial photography done but none of it is viewable by common people now.

If people won't show restraint (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45910125)

If people won't show restraint with respect to the sovereignty of nations and the privacy of the people, then at some point someone will put an end to the usability of low earth orbit by blowing up a couple of these things with explosives. "Because we can" cuts both ways.

Always made me wonder... (1)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | about 3 months ago | (#45910153)

Of who owns the airspace above the atmosphere. Understanding that each Country in the world has control over the airspace within it's borders, but what what elevation does that cease? Could you launch a vehicle from international waters taking your own satellites into orbit and beyond the control of anyone? I'm sure it would upset many folks. Resources not being an issue for such an undertaking.

Re:Always made me wonder... (2)

s122604 (1018036) | about 3 months ago | (#45910453)

I think above 100KM their is no legal claim of sovereign "airspace" per current international law.

Re:Always made me wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45910533)

I heard an interesting story once that the US could have launched the first satellite, but was questioning the same thing about flying something over USSR airspace. They delayed their launch 6 months and Sputnik had been launched and went over the US. We decided not to complain and assumed the USSR didn't seem to think anything of it and off our space program went.

Not sure how true the story was, but it sounded like a good story. Of course the rockets they first wanted to use may not have been ready and someone came up with it as a cover.

Disclosure: I heard it on Coast to Coast, some sources on that show are not to be trusted.

Re:Always made me wonder... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45911229)

> Disclosure: I heard it on Coast to Coast, some sources on that show are not to be trusted.

You can trust Space Ghost, but not Zorak.

Re:Always made me wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45911669)

Above the atmosphere, there's no airspace. Only space.

Re:Always made me wonder... (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 3 months ago | (#45912211)

Well, you don't orbit satellites where there is air. So no problems with airspace.

Claiming the space above your piece of dirt is a bit stupid. If there was no limit, every time the moon passes by do you temporarily gain ownership of it? Do the countries in the tropics all take their share of sun ownership?

Space Junk (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45910167)

More space junk when they fail. Didn't read the article, but hopefully their orbit is sufficiently low that they will quickly spiral down.

How does that work (1)

Yaur (1069446) | about 3 months ago | (#45910221)

I assume the satellites themselves have minimal delta-v so how do you end up covering "large swaths of earth" with a bunch of satellites launched at the same time from the same craft?

Re:How does that work (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 3 months ago | (#45912237)

Stick them in your satellite launcher cannon and point it in different directions?

if civilian tech can do this.. (1)

strstr (539330) | about 3 months ago | (#45910265)

imagine what the NRO's 30+ ELINT/SIGINT satellites are doing across the FULL spectrum. mapping out and monitoring brain electrical activity, tapping into electronics remotely, radar systems for viewing people everywhere they go.. watching your energy signatures even under cover of buildings, etc.

I calculated that based on Moore's law (governors optics, sensors, transistors, and integrated circuitry/CMOS), that satellites today are approximately 65536 times more powerful than Hubble was when it launched in 1990. And I already heard that 13+ year old NRO satellites were about 1000 times more powerful than Hubble was, so today ... yeah they got things that can watch the electromagnetic emission of neurons from space, in your genitals, and brain for example. imaging all that energy pretty precisely. and that is in addition to being able to read books from ground from space, and all that garbage that has been known to be possible for years.

O.O

full article about it here, with NSA Whistleblower Russell Tice talking about using space capability to spy on Americans + remote mind reading patents, etc : http://www.oregonstatehospital.net/d/russelltice-nsarnmebl.html [oregonstatehospital.net]

Re:if civilian tech can do this.. (1)

ameline (771895) | about 3 months ago | (#45910725)

So your contention is that the NSA is ceiling cat?

Re:if civilian tech can do this.. (1)

strstr (539330) | about 3 months ago | (#45912003)

Yep. they point their Signals Intelligence sensors at any area - suddenly they see 12+ persons fucking / masturbating in a building, a couple taking a shit/using the potty, others laying in bed asleep .. you name it. all the embarrassing things you do in private, the government can watch through the walls. And, to add to that, they can go inside your head and extract images, and emotions, and watch your "dirty" and "criminally retarded" thoughts.

they also do it for other reasons though. they can control any target they want with insider information. they know what you know, and what you did last summer. and they know what you'll believe, and how to manipulate you, and use it to infiltrate your life.

they get what they want, and they get away with all crimes. every time.

Re:if civilian tech can do this.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45913453)

... they know what you know, and what you did last summer. and they know what you'll believe, and how to manipulate you, and use it to infiltrate your life.

they get what they want, and they get away with all crimes. every time.

I hate to be the one to tell you this, but the voices in your head are wrong.

Re:if civilian tech can do this.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45914589)

Poe's Law in action. Troll or paranoid schizo?

Re:if civilian tech can do this.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45913481)

LOON-tastic, Todd!

Still masturbating in public?

Apples and Oranges (5, Informative)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | about 3 months ago | (#45910419)

I work on the Landsat program. The article pulls Landsat out as an example of mid-resolution satellites, but it's really an apples-to-oranges comparison. Landsat 8 has 11 spectral bands, including thermal IR, a Cirrus band, a coastal aerosol band, and so on. All of these are used for scientific purposes. The Dove and Skysat instruments have 3 or 4 bands, just enough to get an RGB picture and maybe some chlorophyll distinction for agriculture producers.

Landsat is used to study land cover change, find new resources, map fire scars, and other applications that require precision and data depth; the swarm satellites will be used to make maps and that's about it. Both are important, but comparing one to the other is like comparing a smart car to a grain combine. They're used for totally different purposes.

Re:Apples and Oranges (1)

kyrsjo (2420192) | about 3 months ago | (#45914879)

This version just as a few bands, true - but a future version could have many more. And I would assume that just clorophyll density with high resolution and short time between pictures would be quite valuable?

civilian satellites? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45910451)

how long until they get commandeered for "other" uses? or perhaps they already are?

Digital Globe already has 41cm resolution (5, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about 3 months ago | (#45910457)

Digital Globe already offers 41cm resolution. Much of Google Earth imagery comes from their satellites. This new constellation will produce lower-res information, but more frequently. Useful for traffic studies and such, but the market isn't clear.

Re:Digital Globe already has 41cm resolution (2)

Sez Zero (586611) | about 3 months ago | (#45911583)

Useful for traffic studies and such, but the market isn't clear.

"Is that the FedEx man with my deliver at the door or a solicitor? I don't want to get up from the sofa, pull up the satellite view..."

Re:Digital Globe already has 41cm resolution (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 3 months ago | (#45912281)

Cheaper to put a camera at your door, then your subject will be rendered in more than one pixel.

Installed (0)

jasper160 (2642717) | about 3 months ago | (#45910569)

NSA backdoor. Check!

Re:Installed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45910981)

NSA Bingo!! I win! (First to catch the first douche to insert an NSA post into an off-topic story).

Steganography ( Score: +14, PatRIOTic ) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45911155)

I have discovered NASA - A == NSA !

Yours In Crypto,
Kilgore Trout, Akademgorodok

Re:Steganography ( Score: +14, PatRIOTic ) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45911685)

No, NASA - A = NAS ;-)

buzzwords (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45910657)

Swarm?

I see a bunch of sats moving around, some coordinated, some independently at will. But I thought these are just LEO sats in specific positions, aka a average constellation, or a fleet. Not even close to a swarm aside from being cool, like a buzzword.

Real time. (4, Informative)

DarthVain (724186) | about 3 months ago | (#45910879)

Um No. As someone who has worked with remote sensing imagery the resolution is not all that good. Landsat is ancient and there are loads of other high resolution options. The resolutions these "swarms" have are not particularity good.

The interesting part is the in "real time" bit.

However in that I am even doubtful unless they are using very large values for "real" time.

Anyone that has worked with this kind of data will tell you A) it is usually HUGE, and B) marginally compresses. Data has to be sent from satellite to ground. That means transmission. At what speed? Unless they have discovered a way of sending data magically faster than the rest of the world, it is still constrained by that. In addition, most of the time these sorts of images need to be processed, and with the volume of data we are talking about, even machines with a lot of processing power can be pushed to the limit, doing small chunks for days.

That said, I would be really excited if it really worked. This would allow for all sorts of scientific observations, and resource management, and a host of other things. (if only in small limited areas which are predetermined by orbit)

I get a kick out of all the TV and movies like Enemy of the State depicting satellite tracking and zooming etc... Enhance! Sure it is possible that some secret agency somewhere has some magic technology that does this. Then again has your encounters with any other branch of government given you the idea that this might be a possibility?

Maybe the real story here is that that satellites are really cheap to build and launch, meaning that we may have access to half decent (1-5m resolutions) coverage over most of the globe soon most of the time. Still processing may be a problem. So rather than a very poor update measured in years, you might get something better is much less time. Maybe. I presume these are commercial, and will have to make a profit off these somehow. Selling the data to Google Maps perhaps?

Re:Real time. (1)

dj245 (732906) | about 3 months ago | (#45911255)

The interesting part is the in "real time" bit.

However in that I am even doubtful unless they are using very large values for "real" time.

Anyone that has worked with this kind of data will tell you A) it is usually HUGE, and B) marginally compresses. Data has to be sent from satellite to ground. That means transmission. At what speed? Unless they have discovered a way of sending data magically faster than the rest of the world, it is still constrained by that.

Oh yes. Sending realtime video from a satellite to earth is a problem that absolutely nobody can crack [wikipedia.org]. Hint: they aren't imaging the entire planet at 1m resolution at the same time.

Re:Real time. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45911555)

Well, those are geostationary satellites. Good luck imaging the Earth at 1m resolution from 36 thousand kilometers up vs the few hundred km for LEO. Oh and poles, don't forget to somehow shoot the poles that are completely out of the line of sight from GEO. :)

Re: Real time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45911289)

... set to deliver close to real-time imagery ...

What part of "close to" you don't understand? Of course it's not real time.

"Each toaster-sized device" - LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45910953)

So now we can really say "What did you film this with? A toaster?"

Hold on a minute... (2)

kenh (9056) | about 3 months ago | (#45911119)

You're saying that it's possible to launch a satellite into orbit around the earth, turn a camera on that satellite towards earth, and watch what's happening in "almost" real-time?!

Whatever you do, don't let the NSA know about this - they might start spying on us...

Finally, life catches up to Max Headroom (1)

bscott (460706) | about 3 months ago | (#45911589)

Been rewatching "Max Headroom" (one of my all-time faves) lately and have been so impressed with how much they foresaw. Sure, today's cameras are a lot smaller and several details about society and industry were a bit off-base, but the idea that information is more valuable than money, the rise of corporate power while governments decline in relevance, and a lot of other things they got spot on.

That said, the live telemetry from "satcams" is something which has been missing. Google made a big leap forward with Maps and Streetview, I just wanted it to all connect together in realtime like at Theora's console... nice to know we're still making progress!

Imagine... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45912155)

A beowulf cluster of these..... I know I just brought back a dinosaur.

Really? (1)

um... Lucas (13147) | about 3 months ago | (#45912723)

You just know the nsa is gonna love this. Sure, the nro already has satellites, but think of how many more eyeballs there'll be available to co-opt.

Wartime applications (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45913441)

If real time imagery is possible, can this be used to track and intercept incoming missiles?

Shit just got real-time? (2)

DrPBacon (3044515) | about 3 months ago | (#45914423)

..."photograph huge swathes of the planet as often as several times each day — a frequency much higher than that achieved by current Earth-observing satellites." Well no wonder ananyo didn't include anything about latency in his summary. Chaturbate is close to real-time. This is not.
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