Planet, an Earth-imaging satellite company based in California, announced on Thursday (August 5) it signed a multi-year, multi-launch agreement with SpaceX to launch satellites starting on December 2021 through the end of 2025. The contract is part of SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program which offers to launch small payload at a lower price if customers share rocket fairing with other payloads atop a previously-flown Falcon 9 booster. “SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is the world’s most reliable and frequently-flown rocket that offers low-cost rideshare services, making SpaceX a natural choice for us,” Planet representatives wrote in a press release. “The first planned launch under this agreement is Flock 4x, 44 SuperDoves [satellites] on the Falcon 9 Transporter-3 SSO [Sun-synchronous orbit] rideshare mission scheduled for launch December 2021,” they said. “[…] SpaceX’s rideshare program allows us to meet these ambitious targets by providing a frequent and reliable way of getting new hardware up to space.”
SuperDoves, are Planet’s Earth-Imaging satellites that are equipped with advanced technology cameras and sensors to capture high-resolution aerial photographs. The satellites enable Planet’s customers to see geographical regions on Earth utilized for a wide range of applications, including analyzing climate change and for national security purposes. The SuperDoves have captured aerial views of life-altering events, such as disasters caused by weather, missile strikes, and geographical changes. Over the years the imagery has provided vital insight for rescue and rebuilding efforts.
Planet operates a constellation of 200 satellites; 83 satellites launched aboard SpaceX Falcon 9 over the course of seven separate launches. The most recent satellites were launched aboard SpaceX’s Starlink missions in 2020, also aboard the company’s first rideshare-dedicated mission, Transporter-1, in January this year. “I’m excited to continue our partnership with SpaceX. We’ve had seven launches to date. But more than that, together we’ve pioneered rapid planning, manufacturing, and launch of satellites that only Planet and SpaceX could together have achieved,” said Planet Co-founder and CEO Will Marshall.
“We’re honored that Planet has chosen SpaceX as its go-to launch provider,” SpaceX Vice President of Commercial Sales Tom Ochinero stated, “As the demand for Planet’s services continues to soar, SpaceX’s regular launch cadence will allow Planet’s customers to use its services with as little downtime after manufacturing as possible.”
Planet recently shared a set of aerial photos captured by its satellites in orbit of SpaceX’s Starbase facility at Boca Chica Beach, Texas, where the company is developing Starship. The images show how rapidly SpaceX is transforming the small village into a rocket factory and launch site, video linked below.