Customer profile: BlackSky

BlackSky is a software and analytics company that leverages space as a competitive advantage to provide unique insights about what’s going on in the world. Historically, Earth observation has been focused on capturing images of the globe, but BlackSky goes beyond just observations. Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and a constellation of satellites, the company delivers timely and strategic insights.  

Using high-revisit satellite imagery, BlackSky’s Spectra AI has detected the utilization of major facilities at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. Parking spaces shown in green are rarely used, while red indicates frequent occupancy. BlackSky customers can also understand inflow/outflow of cargo and monitor airline maintenance activity.

With six satellites in commercial operations, BlackSky is preparing for several launches in 2021. Spaceflight is supporting BlackSky across several missions, including launching eight BlackSky smallsats across four dedicated Rocket Lab Electron missions. 

BlackSky’s most recent launch took place on Rocket Lab’s “They Go Up So Fast” rideshare mission (RL-6) in March 2021, with the next launch “Running Out Of Toes” (RL-7) planned for May 2021. Spaceflight secured the capacity aboard the vehicle, designed the adapters and harnessing, and executed the integration of the payload.

Two BlackSky satellites, manufactured by Leostella, are readied for their next Electron launch (RL-7)

BlackSky’s enhanced commissioning capabilities including advanced levels of automation and asynchronous system evaluations allow rapid integration of new satellites into its constellation. This enables the company to rapidly grow its space sensor network and extend capacity to deliver real-time intelligence with an hourly average of dawn-to-dusk imaging revisit rates and average 90-minute delivery times.

With a high volume of satellites planned for orbit, BlackSky turned to Spaceflight to support its launch needs. The two companies are long-time partners. In fact, Spaceflight has supported all of BlackSky’s launches to date, including ISRO’s PSLV-C43 mission and Spaceflight’s SSO-A dedicated Falcon 9 rideshare mission in 2018, Rocket Lab’s “Make It Rain” and “Look Ma, No Hands” missions in 2019, a SpaceX Starlink rideshare mission in 2020, and most recently Rocket Lab’s “They Go Up So Fast” mission earlier this year.

“Being able to turn to Spaceflight to manage our missions, from identifying the right launch partner to executing the integration at the launch site allows our team to remain focused on driving our mission forward.”

Brian E. O’Toole, CEO of BlackSky
The teams ready BlackSky satellites for the RL-7 (Rocket Lab’s “Running out of Toes”) launch planned for May 2021.

“Our goal is to deliver timely and relevant insights so our customers are the first to know,” said Brian E. O’Toole, CEO of BlackSky. “We are focused on continuing to build out our software platform, Spectra AI, which integrates millions of data elements daily from a variety of sources and applies AI and ML algorithms to translate those data elements into insights. Being able to turn to Spaceflight to manage our missions, from identifying the right launch partner to executing the integration at the launch site allows our team to remain focused on driving our mission forward.”

BlackSky’s proprietary AI/ML algorithms allow Spectra AI to read the world’s news, task BlackSky’s smallsat constellation to image emerging events, and automatically analyze those images, delivering actionable insights to BlackSky’s customers around the clock.

Examples of BlackSky’s platform in the real world:

BlackSky’s Spectra AI combines the power of high-resolution satellite imagery with AI/ML techniques to automatically create detailed maps indicating activity along roads, buildings, waterways, construction sites, and more.
In August 2020, Spectra AI recognized seismic anomalies and early reporting of the port explosion in Beirut. Spectra AI then automatically tasked BlackSky’s Global constellation to image the port for damage assessment, delivering critical insight to early responders.
Centered on the spectacular Masjid al-Haram, this image shows the continued impact of COVID-19 on our lives and the new patterns of life that have emerged.At the heart of the Masjid al-Haram is the Kaa’ba. Typically the outdoor space surrounding the Kaa’ba is packed with pilgrims. However, this image instead shows the well-spaced pattern of prayer rugs and an otherwise empty floor, exemplars of the social distancing measures necessary to keep pilgrims to the Kaa’ba safe.

So impressive! Congrats to the entire team at BlackSky.

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