Skybox: Youtube videos from space?

Skybox launched their satellite (with a few others) November 22.  But they are beginning to get sample videos in from their SkySat-1 satellite out to the public.  SkySat-1 is a sun-synchronous Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) polar satellite going around the Earth around 450 Km (280 miles) from Earth’s surface.  Skybox notes this satellite’s expected orbital lifetime is 2.5 years.  Whether that’s just a limit they’ve figured out because of components or atmospheric drag, is unknown.

Here’s the video of what they’ve done so far:

I don’t know if they’ve slowed down the videos, but they certainly do look pretty good.  There doesn’t seem to be any sort of stabilization problem–in other words, the videos look rock-steady.  Considering how fast the satellite is flying (a little over 4 miles per SECOND) over those areas, it’s a pretty damn good feat.

The satellite’s imaging payload is reportedly able to record full High Definition (HD) video at a 1080p resolution for 30 frames per second.  The satellite’s payload can record a a single video clip for 90 seconds.  The actual resolution to the ground (don’t confuse this with the image screen resolution) is supposed to be less than a meter.  Skybox say the satellite can generate up to one terabyte of data in a single day, so this video information has to be stored on board a huge hard drive (for satellites)–768 Gigabytes, according to this FCC license application.

There isn’t much information about the ground stations aside from what’s in the FCC application.  But they do have an operations center in Mountain View, California, and control the satellite and payload with commands from there.  It sounds like at least one of the remote ground terminals for sending and receiving information from the satellite is located in Fairbanks, Alaska.

The interesting thing to note is Note 6 in the FCC application, which comes down to this:  other ground stations outside the US will be able to send imagery commands to the satellites to tell them where to look.  But those commands will always originate in Mountain View’s mission operations center.  So there will be some sort of sharing agreements with other ground stations to get the video taken (and perhaps eventually, downlinked).



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