ICEYE-X2 (SAR Microsatellite-X2)
The commercial Earth Observation company ICEYE Ltd. of Espoo, Finland developed and built the ICEYE-X2 spacecraft with a SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) instrument suitable for a microsatellite. ICEYE-X2 features a range of technology improvements to increase the versatility and quality of the imaging data compared to ICEYE-X1. The improvements relate to items such as component choices, subsystem interfaces, software code, operations procedures, communication links, and optimization of power management. ICEYE-X2 possesses various imaging modes to provide imagery at high resolution and alternatively with a very wide swath to support different types of use cases. 1) 2)
Spacecraft and sensor complement
The ICEYE constellation will consist of approximately 18 operational X-band SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) small satellites. In the creation of this new resource we wanted to bring a new service to the market with an emphasis on superior reliability, a vastly higher rate of revisits to individual locations, and on objectivity. The service is based on completely new satellite and sensor design, leveraging recent advancement of various technologies and a New Space approach.
ICEYE SAR satellites, each with a mass of 85 kg, are side-looking X-band SAR sensors utilizing active phased array antenna (electronically steerable) technology. It is both right- and left-looking and capable of acquiring satellite imagery of Earth using stripmap, spotlight and ScanSAR imaging modes. ICEYE-X2, a typical representative instrument of the ICEYE constellation (Figure 1), is currently located on a sun-synchronous polar orbit with 17 days of ground track repeat cycle with 15 imaging orbits per day. Table 1 lists system and orbital parameters of presently available SAR instruments.
Table 1: System parameters of ICEYE sensors
ICEYE imaging modes
ICEYE satellites collect SAR images in several standard imaging modes. ICEYE’s satellites are capable of imaging in Stripmap, Spotlight and ScanSAR modes, with Stripmap and Spotlight imagery operationally available for acquisition worldwide. Notably, all imaging beam modes are available in both right- and left-looking configuration. Further, we describe the available imaging modes, and their radiometric and geometric characteristics.
Stripmap imaging mode
In Stripmap mode, the ground swath is illuminated with a continuous sequence of pulses while the antenna beam is fixed in elevation and azimuth. This results in an image strip with a continuous image quality in the flight direction.
Figure 2: Schematic of the stripmap imaging mode (image credit: ICEYE)
Spotlight imaging mode
In Spotlight mode, mechanical antenna steering in the azimuth direction is used to increase the illumination time, resulting in an increased synthetic aperture and, therefore, better azimuth resolution compared to a continuous stripmap mode.
Figure 3: Schematic of the Spotlight imaging mode (image credit: ICEYE)
ScanSAR imaging mode
In ScanSAR mode, electronic antenna elevation steering is used to switch after bursts of pulses between swathes with different incidence angles. Due to the switching between the beams, only bursts of SAR echoes are received, resulting in a reduced azimuth bandwidth and hence, reduced azimuth resolution.
To obtain a more homogeneous radiometry and noise floor over the access range, each ICEYE ScanSAR beam will have an individual transmitted chirp range bandwidth which decreases with increasing incidence angle. The bandwidth is selected to achieve a targeted constant ground range resolution in the complex single look data. For detected products, multi-looking will be applied independently to each beam before merging into a combined swath.
ScanSAR is currently under development.
Figure 4: Schematic of the ScanSAR imaging mode (image credit: ICEYE)
Table 2: ICEYE imaging modes summary
Definitions: AASR (Azimuth Ambiguity to Signal Ratio); RASR (Range Ambiguity to Signal Ratio); SLC (Single Look Complex); GRD (Ground Range Detected).
Launch: The two ICEYE-X2 microsatellites were launched on the SSO-A rideshare mission of Spaceflight, on 3 December 2018 (18:34:05 GMT) on a SpaceX Falcon-9 Block 5 vehicle from VAFB (Vandenberg Air Force Base) in California. 3) 4) 5)
Figure 5: A Falcon 9 rocket lifts off on 3 December 2018 (18:34 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 4-East at Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA (image credit: SpaceX)
Orbit: Sun-synchronous circular orbit with an altitude of 570 km, inclination of 97.7º, LTDN (Local Time of Descending Node) of 10:30 hours, repeat cycle of 17 days.
Figure 6: Artist’s illustration of the SSO-A mission’s free flyers separating from the upper stage of SpaceX’s Falcon-9 rocket (image credit: Spaceflight)
Figure 7: SSO-A mission animation of the spacecraft deployments (image credit: Spaceflight Industries)
List of payloads on the Spaceflight SSO-A rideshare mission
The layout of the list follows the alphabetical order of missions as presented on the Wikipedia page ”2018 in spaceflight” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_in_spaceflight#November — as well as with the help of Gunter Krebs's short descriptions at https://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/skysat-3.htm
This mission enabled 34 organizations from 17 different countries to place spacecraft on orbit. It’s also special because it was completely dedicated to smallsats. Spaceflight launched 15 microsatellite and 49 CubeSats from government and commercial entities including universities, startups, and even a middle school. The payloads vary from technology demonstrations and imaging satellites to educational research endeavors.
• AISTechSat-2, a 6U CubeSat for Earth observation of AISTech (Access to Intelligent Space Technologies), Barcelona, Spain.
• Al Farabi-2, a 3U CubeSat technology demonstration mission of the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, Kazakhstan.
• Astrocast-0.1, a 3U CubeSat technology demonstration mission of Astrocast, Switzerland, dedicated to the Internet of Things (IoT)
• Audacy-0, a 3U CubeSat technology demonstration mission of Audacy, Mountain View, CA, built by Clyde Space.
• BlackSky-2, a microsatellite (55 kg) of BlackSky Global (Seattle, WA) which will provide 1 m resolution imagery with improved geolocation accuracy.
• BRIO, a 3U CubeSat of SpaceQuest Ltd. of Fairfax, VA to test a novel communications protocol that uses SDR (Software Defined Radio).
• Capella-1, a microsatellite (37 kg) of Capella Space, San Francisco, CA featuring a X-band SAR (Synthetic Aperture) payload.
• Centauri-1, a 3U CubeSat of Fleet Space Technologies, Adelaide, South Australia. Demonstration of IoT technologies.
• CSIM-FD (Compact Spectral Irradiance Monitor-Flight Demonstration), a 6U CubeSat of LASP (Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics) at the University of Boulder, CO, USA. The goal is to measure solar spectral irradiance to understand how solar variability impacts the Earth’s climate and to validate climate model sensitivity to spectrally varying solar forcing.
• Eaglet-1, the first 3U CubeSat (5 kg) of OHB Italia SpA for Earth Observation.
• Elysium Star-2, a 1U CubeSat of Elysium Space providing space burial services.
• ESEO (European Student Earth Orbiter) sponsored by ESA, a microsatellite of ~40 kg with 6 instruments aboard.
• Eu:CROPIS (Euglena and Combined Regenerative Organic-Food Production in Space), a minisatellite (230 kg) of DLR, Germany. The objective is to study food production in space in support of future long-duration manned space missions (life sciences). The main payloads are two greenhouses, each maintained as a pressurized closed loop system, simulating the environmental conditions of the Moon or of Mars.
• eXCITe (eXperiment for Cellular Integration Technology), a DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) mission to demonstrate the 'satlets' technology. Satlets are a new low-cost, modular satellite architecture that can scale almost infinitely. Satlets are small modules that incorporate multiple essential satellite functions and share data, power and thermal management capabilities. Satlets physically aggregate in different combinations that would provide capabilities to accomplish diverse missions.Built by NovaWurks, eXCITE has a mass of 155 kg. eXCITE also carries the See Me (Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements), a prototype microsatellite (~22 kg) built by Raytheon for DARPA to obtain on-demand satellite imagery in a timely and persistent manner for pre-mission planning.
• ExseedSat-1, a 1U CubeSat mission by the Indian company Exseed Space. The goal is to provide a multifunction UHF/VHF NBFM (Narrow Band Frequency Modulation) amateur communication satellite.
• FalconSat-6, a minisatellite (181 kg) of the USAFA (U.S. Air Force Academy) and sponsored by AFRL. FalconSat-6 hosts a suite of five payloads to address key AFSPC (Air Force Space Command) needs: SSA (Space Situational Awareness) and the need to mature pervasive technologies such as propulsion, solar arrays, and low power communications.
• Flock-3, three 3U CubeSats (5 kg each) of Planet Labs to provide Earth observation.
• Fox-1C, a radio amateur and technology research 1U CubeSat developed by AMSAT and hosting several university developed payloads.
• HawkEye, a formation-flying cluster of three microsatellites (13.4 kg each) of HawkEye 360, Herndon, VA, USA. The goal is to demonstrate high-precision RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) geolocation technology monitoring.
• Hiber-1 and-2, these are 6U CubeSats, a pathfinder mission of Hiber Global, Noordwijk, The Netherlands, for Hiber Global's planned (IoT) communications CubeSat constellation.
• ICE-Cap (Integrated Communications Extension Capability), a 3U CubeSat of the US Navy. The objectives are to demonstrate a cross-link from LEO (Low Earth Orbit) to MUOS (Mobile User Objective System) WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) in GEO (Geosynchronous Orbit). The objective is to send to users on secure networks.
• ICEYE-X2, two X-band SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) microsatellites (each ~ 80 kg) of Iceye Ltd, a commercial satellite startup company of Espoo, Finland.
• Irvine 02, a 1U CubeSat educational mission by the Irvine Public School Foundation, Irvine, CA. The Irvine CubeSat STEM Program (ICSP) is a multi-year endeavor that directly impacts over a hundred students from six high schools and two school districts.
• ITASAT-1 (Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica Satellite), a Brazilian 6U Cubesat (~8kg) built by the Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica (ITA). A former rescoped microsatellite mission.
• JY1-Sat, a 1U CubeSat of Jordan developed by students of various universities. The satellite will carry a UHF/VHF amateur radio.
• KazSTSAT (Kazakh Science and Technology Satellite), a microsatellite (<100 kg) of Ghalam LLP, Astana, Kazakhstan. Developed by SSTL on a SSTL-50 platform including an SSTL EarthMapper payload designed for global commercial wide-area imaging with a resolution of 17.5 m on a swath of 250 km.
• KNACKSAT (KMUTNB Academic Challenge of Knowledge SATellite) of Thailand, a 1U technology demonstration CubeSat, the first entirely Thai-built satellite, developed by students of King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok (KMUTNB). Use of an amateur radio for communication.
• Landmapper-BC (Corvus BC 4), a 6U CubeSat (11 kg) of Astro Digital (formerly Aquila Space), Santa Clara, CA, USA. The satellite features a broad coverage multispectral (Red, Green, NIR) imaging system with a resolution of 22 m.
• MinXSS-2 (Miniature X-ray Solar Spectrometer-2), a 3U CubeSat(4 kg) of LASP (Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics) at the University of Colorado at Boulder,CO, USA. The objective is to study the energy distribution of solar flare SXR (Soft X-ray) emissions and its impact on the Earth’s ITM (Ionosphere, Thermosphere, and Mesosphere) layers.MinXSS-2 is a copy of the MinXSS-1 but with some improvements. — MinXSS-1 was launched on 06 December 2015 onboard of Cygnus CRS-4 to the ISS, were it was deployed into orbit on 16 May 2016. It reentered Earth's atmosphere on 6 May 2017.
• NEXTSat-1, a multi-purpose microsatellite (~100 kg) of Korea designed and developed at SaTReC (Satellite Technology Research Center) of KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology). The goal is to conduct scientific missions such as star formation and space storm measurements and also technology demonstration in space. Instruments: ISSS (Instrument for the Study of Space Storms) developed at KAIST to detect plasma densities and particle fluxes of 10 MeV energy range near the Earth. NISS (NIR Imaging Spectrometer for Star formation history), developed at KASI (Korean Astronomy and Space Science Institute).
• Orbital Reflector, a 3U CubeSat project (4 kg) of the Nevada Museum of Art and artist Trevor Paylon. The Orbital Reflector is a 30 m sculpture constructed of a lightweight material similar to Mylar. On deployment, the sculpture self-inflates like a balloon. Sunlight reflects onto the sculpture making it visible from Earth with the naked eye — like a slowly moving artificial star as bright as a star in the Big Dipper.
• ORS-7 (Operationally Responsive Space 7), two 6U CubeSats (-7A and -7B), named Kodiak and Yukon, in support of the USCG (US Coast Guard) as part of the Polar Scout mission and in cooperation with DHS (Department of Homeland Security), the ORS (Operationally Responsive Space Office) of DoD, and NOAA. The objective is to detect transmissions from EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons), which are carried on board vessels to broadcast their position if in distress.
• PW-Sat 2 (Politechnika Warszawska Satellite 2), a 2U CubeSat of the Institute of Radioelectronics at the Warsaw University of Technology, Warsaw, Poland. The objective is to demonstrate a deorbitation system - a drag parachute opened behind the satellite - which allows faster removal of satellites from their orbit after it completes its mission.
• RAAF-M1 (Royal Australian Air Force-M1), an Australian 3U CubeSat (~4 kg) designed and built by UNSW (University of New South Wales) for the Australian Defence Force Academy, Royal Australian Air Force. RAAF-M1 is a technology demonstration featuring an AIS receiver, and ADS-B receiver, an SDR (Software Defined Radio).
• RANGE-A and -B (Ranging And Nanosatellite Guidance Experiment), two 1.5 CubeSats of Georgia Tech (Georgia Institute of Technology), Atlanta, GA, USA, flying in a leader-follower formation with the goal of improving the relative and absolute positioning capabilities of nanosatellites.
• ROSE-1, a 6U CubeSat of Phase Four Inc., El Segundo, CA, USA. ROSE-1 is an experimental spacecraft designed to provide an orbital test-bed for the Phase Four RFT (Radio Frequency Thruster), the first plasma propulsion system to fly on a nanosatellite.
• SeaHawk-1, a 3U CubeSats of UNCW (University of North Carolina, Wilmington), NC. The goal is to measure the ocean color in project SOCON (Sustained Ocean Observation from Nanosatellites). SeaHawk is considered a prototype for a larger constellation. The SOCON project is a collaboration between Clyde Space Ltd (spacecraft bus), the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Cloudland Instruments, and NASA/GSFC (Goddard Space Flight Center).
• See Me (Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements), a prototype microsatellite (~22 kg) built by Raytheon for DARPA to obtain on-demand satellite imagery in a timely and persistent manner for pre-mission planning.
• SkySat-14 and -15. Planet Labs of San Francisco has 13 SkySats in orbit. The commercial EO satellites were built by Terra Bella of Mountain View, CA, which Planet Labs acquired from Google last year. At the time of the purchase, there were 7 SkySats in orbit. On 31 October 2017, Planet launched an additional six on a Minotaur-C rocket. The 100 kg SkySats are capable of sub-meter resolution – making them the most powerful in the constellation. Customers can request to have these high-resolution satellites target their locations of interest.
• SNUGLITE, a 2U CubeSat designed by the SNU (Seoul National University) for technology demonstrations and amateur radio communication.
• SpaceBEE, four picosatellites of Swarm Technologies (a US start-up), built to the 0.25U form factor to make up a 1U CubeSat.
• STPSat-5 is a science technology minisatellite of the US DoD STP (Space Test Program), managed by the SMC of the USAF. STPSat-5 will carry a total of five technological or scientific payloads to LEO (Low Earth Orbit) in order to further the DoD’s understanding of the space environment. The satellite was built by SNC (Sierra Nevada Corporation) on the modular SN-50 bus with a payload capacity of 50-100 kg and compatible with ESPA-class secondary launch adaptors.
• THEA, a 3U CubeSat built by SpaceQuest, Ltd. of Fairfax, VA to demonstrate a spectrum survey payload developed by Aurora Insight, Washington DC. The objective is to qualify Aurora’s payload, consisting of a proprietary spectrometer and components, and demonstrate the generation of relevant measurements of the spectral environment (UHF, VHF, S-band). The results of the experiment will inform future development of advanced instrumentation by Aurora and component development by SpaceQuest.
• VESTA is a 3U CubeSat developed at SSTL in Guildford, UK. VESTA is a technology demonstration mission that will test a new two-way VHF Data Exchange System (VDES) payload for the exactEarth advanced maritime satellite constellation. Honeywell Aerospace is providing the payload. VESTA is a flagship project of the National Space Technology Program, funded by the UK Space Agency and managed by the Center for EO Instrumentation and Space Technology (CEOI-ST).
• VisionCube-1, a 2U CubeSat designed by the Korea Aerospace University (KAU) to perform research on Transient Luminous Events in the upper atmosphere. The image processing payload consists of a multi-anode photon multiplier tube(MaPMT), a camera, and a real-time image processing engine built by using SoC (System-on-Chip) FPGA technologies.
Spaceflight has contracted with 64 spacecraft from 34 different organizations for the mission to a Sun-Synchronous Low Earth Orbit. It includes 15 microsatellites and 49 CubeSats from both commercial and government entities, of which more than 25 are from international organizations from 17 countries, including United States, Australia, Italy, Netherlands, Finland, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, UK, Germany, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Poland, Canada, Brazil, and India. 6)
Mission Status of ICEYE-X2
• May 6, 2020: With an actively maintained 18-day repeat ground track worldwide, ICEYE has demonstrated a new radar satellite imaging capability from its current radar satellite constellation. ICEYE’s interferometric SAR capability is used for change detection measured in millimeters. 7)
- Finnish New Space leader ICEYE is the first in the world to demonstrate interferometric capabilities from SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) satellites under 100 kg in mass. With an actively maintained 18-day ground track revisit cycle, ICEYE is now able to produce a further capability that was previously only available from larger, conventional SAR satellites. Interferometry is made available to ICEYE customers later in 2020.
- SAR interferometry is used to detect millimeter-scale surface movements in vertical direction between two or more SAR images. These height differences are analyzed using maps called interferograms, which are the basis for creating Digital Elevation Models (DEM). Interferograms are also used for monitoring oil exploration activities, ongoing underground constructions, ensuring the safety of mining activities, and analyzing ground deformations after earthquakes, among other uses.
Figure 8: An interferogram shows height information by considering differences between two SAR images (image credit: ICEYE)
Figure 9: The coherence between two SAR images shows what has changed (shown as black) - and what has stayed the same (white) - between the time that has passed from one image to the next (image credit: ICEYE)
- Coherence, a correlation between two SAR images, is a valuable source for detailed change detection analysis, land cover classification, analyzing infrastructure, flood monitoring, and more.
- ICEYE is in a unique position in the world, as its small SAR satellites are maneuvered with electric propulsion, which enables the exact maintained satellite orbits that are necessary for interferometry. The integrated propulsion solutions and technical support provided by ICEYE’s key partner ENPULSION - with additional collaboration from the European Space Agency - have been instrumental for ICEYE in achieving the desired outcomes in this capability demonstration.
- “Generating interferometric information from the world’s smallest SAR satellites is revolutionary.”, said Steve Young, Vice President, Business Development and Sales, ICEYE. “This will enable our customers to perform change detection measured in millimeters, and to utilize SAR satellite based 3D data from their locations of interest.”
- ICEYE’s interferometric data will be provided to customers later in 2020. Interferometry will be made available in high detail from Spotlight images, and for wider areas from Stripmap data. Once commercially available, ICEYE's standard product formats for interferometry will be accessible with standard Geographic Information System (GIS) tools.
• March 26, 2020: With an in-orbit demonstration from ICEYE radar imaging satellites, the company's data achieves the finest resolution class in commercial SAR. The company continues with its consistent track-record of delivering reliable and timely SAR satellite data to the Earth observation market, while overcoming another world-first feat from very small SAR satellites. 8)
- Finnish New Space leader ICEYE unveiled today its latest capability of 25 cm resolution imaging with SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) small satellites, utilizing the company’s current commercial SAR satellite constellation in-orbit. With this very high resolution imaging capability, ICEYE SAR data achieves the same resolution class provided by larger, conventional commercial SAR satellites operating at their highest performance.
Figure 10: A compressed preview image of ICEYE radar satellite imagery, originally acquired at 25 cm resolution, showing oil tanks in Rotterdam, The Netherlands (image credit: ICEYE)
- ICEYE successfully launched its first SAR satellite in January 2018, ICEYE-X1, which achieved 10 x 10 meter resolution data capabilities, while also becoming the World's first SAR satellite mission under 100 kg in launch mass. With the company's latest development of 25 cm imaging from its current commercial SAR satellite constellation of 3 spacecraft, ICEYE data achieves the finest classification of resolution in the commercial SAR market.
- “Before, these resolutions have been exclusively reserved for the larger, traditional SAR spacecraft,” said Pekka Laurila, CSO & Co-founder, ICEYE. “This resolution is operationally expected to be available for ICEYE customers already mid-2020 from the current in-orbit constellation.”
- Following standard industry definitions, the native slant plane resolution of the newly unveiled SAR data is 25 cm in the azimuth direction, and 50 cm in the range direction, before ground-plane adjustments are applied. The finest resolution data will be provided to customers in ICEYE's standard product formats that are accessible with standard Geographic Information System (GIS) tools.
• March 9, 2020: ICEYE continues to lead the way for synthetic-aperture radar satellite technologies, now with a newly unveiled in-orbit demonstration for analyzing movement from the company’s SAR data. 9)
- Finnish New Space leader ICEYE unveiled its newest in-orbit satellite demonstration, the capability to create SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) videos from the company’s current SAR satellite constellation, during Satellite 2020 in Washington, DC. ICEYE’s innovative imaging and processing technique for generating SAR videos can be used for advanced analysis of movement from a single satellite pass. This in-orbit demonstration opens new use cases for data users, while validating once more the forerunner status of ICEYE in SAR satellite technology.
- Generating SAR video data from ICEYE SAR satellites is done by initially focusing imaging on a single precise location for 20 seconds or more during an individual satellite pass. The acquired data is then processed into several high-resolution frames from that period, rather than into a single image. ICEYE has developed the techniques involved by utilizing its own satellite hardware and processing software.
- “The capability to generate SAR videos from a single satellite pass is an exciting feature for advanced radar image analysis of movement,” said Pekka Laurila, CSO & Co-founder, ICEYE. “We’re proud to be delivering significant amounts of standardized SAR data from orbit right now, and a big part of our commitment to our global clients is to continue to develop new capabilities that they can benefit from.”
- As a technical demonstration of the new capability, ICEYE published a collection of several ICEYE SAR video acquisitions, featuring a port in Busan, the Heathrow Airport, Las Vegas, the Bingham Canyon mine, and Tokyo. Locations are listed in the order of appearance. In these SAR videos, movement can be detected in the form of a vessel maneuvering near a port, airplanes moving at an airport, and trucks moving along a road. In addition, the videos show how large buildings in cities reflect radio waves from different imaging angles, as the satellite passes over the area.
Figure 11: On March 9th, 2020, ICEYE is publishing the first in-orbit demonstration of SAR videos, acquired with ICEYE SAR satellites. In these scenes, you can detect and analyze movement in a new way, giving insights into what is happening on the ground during a single SAR satellite pass over the location (video credit: ICEYE)
- “SAR video data is helpful in guiding analysts to moving objects for deeper technical analysis. The video previews that ICEYE creates from the acquired data are helpful for visually communicating analytical results – forming a more complete suite of tools for the analysts and decision makers.”, said Dr. Mark Matossian, CEO of the US subsidiary of ICEYE. “The market for advanced image analysis continues to grow, as new capabilities are introduced - along with new satellite units. With roughly 20% of the world’s commercial SAR satellite units in orbit right now, ICEYE has shown to be in its own league in swift SAR satellite development.”
• February 13, 2020: ICEYE, the Finnish radar satellite operator, opened a U.S. office in the San Francisco Bay Area led by Mark Matossian, who managed a series of aerospace programs at Google including the Earth-imaging venture Terra Bella. 10)
- “The U.S. is a very big market and a top priority for ICEYE,” Rafal Modrzewski, ICEYE CEO and co-founder, told SpaceNews. “We have a large set of customer-partners operating in that market. We want to make sure they get the best possible service.”
- Since launching the first small commercial synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) satellite in 2018, ICEYE has established a constellation of three microsatellites to provide a range of products to defense and intelligence organizations, civil government agencies and commercial customers.
- The firm’s U.S. customers and partners include satellite data and analytics firms Ursa Space of Ithaca, New York, R2Space of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and RS Metrics of Stamford, Connecticut, as well as ExxonMobil, the multinational corporation based in Irving, Texas.
- “We want an office dedicated to U.S. customers and are contemplating a variety of options including establishing a full manufacturing chain in the U.S. as we hear from some customers that may be a requirement or may be helpful to them,” Modrzewski said. “Almost all of the applications we have on our roadmap are in demand by U.S. customers.”
- Matossian, who earned a PhD in operations research and optimization from the University of Colorado, Boulder, before working on the Strategic Defense Initiative and a 1990s broadband telecommunications constellation, said he considered many business ventures before joining ICEYE.
- “Terra Bella was electrooptical imaging,” Matossian said. “When I looked at what the customers wanted, a lot of it came down to understanding precise geometry and change detection, things that are far better with synthetic-aperture radar than with electrooptical imagery. The accepted wisdom in the industry at the time was that radar satellites were too expensive and their power requirements were too large for an innovative NewSpace venture to operate them.”
- Since that is no longer the accepted wisdom, companies around the world are raising money and building satellites to create additional SAR constellations including San Francisco-based Capella Space, Umbra Lab of Santa Barbara, California, and Synspective of Tokyo.
- In addition to proving small SAR is possible, ICEYE is operating a constellation that offers imagery at “such a compelling price-point that it opens doors,” Matossian said. “I think it will actually start steering the remote sensing market toward SAR and that SAR as a category will grow because of ICEYE.”
- From ICEYE's perspective, Matossian is the right person to lead ICEYE U.S. because of his education and experience, Modrzewski said. “He did a very similar thing in the past when Google acquired SkyBox and converted it into Terra Bella. Mark was in charge of operations. He knows the industry, he knows the market and he cares about customers as much as we do.”
• January 20, 2020: ICEYE announced today the launch of its global Dark Vessel Detection solution for governmental maritime security customers. The unique solution combines SAR satellite data from ICEYE, and AIS (Automatic Identification System) data from vessels. Dark Vessel Detection is used as a source of actionable information for governments monitoring their EEZs (Exclusive Economic Zones), day and night, and even through cloud cover. 11)
- ICEYE offers its dark vessel detection solution now in a standardized data product format for maritime security authorities around the world. With the company’s growing radar imaging satellite constellation, delivery timelines for new data continue to shrink.
- “Dark Vessel Detection offered by ICEYE is built for governments around the world for improving the maritime safety of their regions,” said Steve Young, Vice President, Business Development and Sales, ICEYE. “This unique solution enables authorities to take action based on reliable information. Data users can improve their enforcement activities against illegal transshipments of goods, help them in addressing illegal fishing, and assist in curbing drug and human trafficking.”
- Vessels engaged in illegal activities can choose to turn off their AIS transponders to avoid detection from authorities. ICEYE’s Dark Vessel Detection service’s core is built on the company’s own radar imaging satellite constellation data, which provides a reliable source of information at all times of the day and in all weather conditions. ICEYE’s customers have access to both location information and radar satellite images of all detectable vessels - even when they do not have their AIS transponders turned on.
Figure 12: Visualization of the ICEYE Dark Vessel Detection Solution, showing locations, and the AIS status of collaborative vessels with a green circle, and dark vessels with a red circle, on top of ICEYE SAR satellite data (image credit: ICEYE)
• November 6, 2019: ICEYE today announced that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with RS Metrics of Stamford CT, USA. The timely and actionable satellite SAR data and analysis will supply the "SAR Metal Signals" - a new product by RS Metrics, that will provide commodities market the world’s first global SAR-based iron ore inventories dataset with up to daily updates." 12)
- ICEYE, who recently announced the commercial availability of its high resolution satellite imaging, is uniquely positioned for SAR remote sensing of iron ore stockpiles. With a growing amount of radar imaging satellites in the ICEYE constellation, there is now a completely new view into almost the entirety of the global iron ore supply chain.
- In scope of this partnership, ICEYE will provide multi-angle SAR imaging and associated iron ore stockpile analysis to RS Metrics. In turn, RS Metrics will provide its users visibility into supply chain disruptions, regional and global trends, as well as iron ore inventories information that is valuable in predicting commodities and dry bulk price fluctuations.
Figure 13: Iron ore stockpiles seen and measured from ICEYE high resolution SAR imaging, at the port of Port Hedland, Australia, ready for further analysis (image credit: ICEYE)
• October 16, 2019: ICEYE today announced that its recently developed Spotlight imaging mode, which enables 1-meter radar imaging resolution from the company’s satellite constellation, is now commercially available to its customers around the world. ICEYE Spotlight imaging is purpose-built to achieve a high resolution that supports a variety of use cases for both commercial and government customers. 13)
- The successful deployment of Spotlight imaging for commercial customers is a major milestone for ICEYE, as well as a technological achievement. There are very few comparable services available worldwide, and ICEYE is currently the only organization in the world to provide this capability as a commercial service from such small SAR microsatellites. High resolution radar imagery is especially useful for distinguishing between small objects, and in helping data users classify larger objects with more certainty. 1-meter Spotlight radar imagery is particularly useful in detailed volume monitoring of stockpiles, vehicle count monitoring, property damage estimation, and oil transshipment monitoring.
- “The commodities sector is an early example where the availability of high-resolution SAR imaging can have dramatic impacts,” said Pekka Laurila, CSO and co-founder of ICEYE. “It is now possible to track specific locations, often, with high reliability, and at an incredible level of detail. The potential benefits for our early users are immense, as the competitive edge our data provides is still very fresh in the market.”
- “ICEYE and our partners are in a unique position in the world with this new commercial availability of high-resolution radar satellite data,” said Rafal Modrzewski, CEO and co-founder of ICEYE. “I am proud of our team, who are helping our customers and partners to solve some of the incredibly hard challenges the world faces – both globally and locally.”
- ICEYE was the first organization in the world to technologically achieve under 1-meter resolution imagery from SAR satellites under 100 kg in mass. The latest two ICEYE SAR Satellites were launched in July 2019. The company continues to grow its commercially available SAR satellite constellation with additional satellite launches at an increasing pace.
Figure 14: An ICEYE-X2 Spotlight radar satellite image of the Kuwait International Airport's new terminal under construction (image credit: ICEYE)
• September 25 2019: ICEYE and KSAT have signed an extended cooperation agreement to provide Near Real-Time radar satellite imagery and data analysis at high speeds to customers. 14)
- ICEYE and KSAT (Kongsberg Satellite Services) today announced they have signed an extended cooperation agreement on providing Near Real-Time (NRT) SAR data services for government and commercial customers. The newly signed contract covers further data purchases and extended operations of ICEYE’s Near Real-Time SAR processor within the KSAT Ground Network, resulting in an extremely fast delivery chain for data and value-added products for customers.
- The collaborative solution between KSAT and ICEYE enables streaming satellite data directly to the ICEYE SAR processor running on the KSAT local infrastructure. This unique setup enables information extraction immediately from the arrival of the first data bytes of satellite data, resulting in delivery times of vessel detection results in less than 15 minutes.
Figure 15: High-resolution radar imagery of port of Port Hedland, Australia, taken with an ICEYE-X2 SAR satellite (image credit: ICEYE)
- KSAT has installed the ICEYE SAR processor for direct downlink capabilities, offering customers an unparalleled access to ICEYE SAR satellite constellation data. The KSAT stream currently supports the current ICEYE SAR satellite constellation of 3 satellite units, and the new system architecture is designed to handle increasing volumes of data from the growing ICEYE SAR satellite constellation.
• September 12, 2019: ICEYE’s Two Newest SAR Satellites, Launched in July 2019, Have Finished Their Initial Commissioning, and Have Been Added to ICEYE’s Commercial SAR Constellation. 15)
- ICEYE announced today its two SAR satellites launched in July 2019 have finalized their initial commissioning, and are available for customer data orders. The company now provides standardized commercial imaging access to three of its SAR satellite units, in addition to serving a number of customers with custom data products and solutions. ICEYE is set to launch two more SAR satellite units by the end of 2019 to further increase the commercial availability and coverage of the globe with the company’s constellation.
- The initial commissioning phase for these two ICEYE SAR satellites has been finalized, and standard SAR data access is available for commercial and government customers. ICEYE has recently published radar imaging with its newly developed Spotlight mode - imagery at very high resolutions.
- ICEYE is simultaneously publicizing images that have been acquired with both new SAR satellite units, taken only minutes apart from each other, to demonstrate change detection capabilities the company is developing. ICEYE intends to grow its SAR satellite constellation to cover the globe with very frequent imaging, with an average of only hours between imaging opportunities for individual locations.
Figure 16: In this composite visualization, vessels in the port of Gothenburg, Sweden, are detected changing their position with just minutes between two combined SAR satellite images. Elements shown in green represent the position of elements only seen in the prior image, and elements in red represent elements only in the following image. One of the vessels is leaving the port, and another is slowly approaching the oil terminal visible in the scene (image credit: ICEYE)
- “The capacity of these two SAR satellites helps us increase our revisit rates for individual locations, which further ensures our customers don’t have to wait for imaging,” said Pekka Laurila, Chief Strategy Officer and Co-founder of ICEYE. “With this dramatic increase in imaging capacity, we are able to also serve segments such as the insurance and energy industries with tailored information solutions that bring more direct value towards their needs.”
• August 9, 2019: Under 1-meter resolution radar satellite imaging from ICEYE breaks previous technological barriers for small SAR satellites. ICEYE is the first in the world to achieve better-than 1 meter resolution imagery from under 100 kg SAR satellites. The new Spotlight imaging capability builds on ICEYE’s legacy of leading the way on small satellite SAR since its history-making first small SAR satellite launch in January 2018. Since then the company has continued to launch more satellites, latest in July 2019 with two new units. With new satellites being launched still during 2019, ICEYE continues to develop and optimize its imaging capabilities further for customers in both commercial and government segments. 16)
- “Offering satellite imagery day and night, regardless of cloud cover, and at these very high resolutions, makes small SAR the new standard for reliable and timely imaging,” said Rafal Modrzewski, CEO and co-founder of ICEYE. “The imagery we’ve released today shows that the previously perceived limits of small satellite SAR continue to be solved by our extremely talented teams at ICEYE.”
Figure 17: ICEYE radar satellite imagery that has been acquired and processed at 0.5 meter ground sample distance, featuring a port container terminal near Port Harcourt, Nigeria (image credit: ICEYE)
• July 5, 2019: ICEYE today confirmed that the simultaneous launch of two new ICEYE SAR satellites has been successful. The satellites were launched on a rideshare mission of Roscosmos managed by Exolaunch, a Berlin-based company, on July 05 2019 at 05:41 UTC. Communications with both SAR satellites have been established, and the procedure for commissioning both units for commercially available radar imaging has begun. With these units, ICEYE continues to grow its in-orbit capacity that is currently available for both government and commercial SAR data users. 17)
• June 7, 2019: ICEYE and KSAT announce joint offering on direct downlink capabilities for ICEYE constellation to push the boundaries of SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) image delivery timelines. 18)
- ICEYE, the leader in small SAR satellite technology, currently providing commercial imaging with the ICEYE-X2 satellite, and Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT), announced today their joint offering of full SAR Ground Segment services to ICEYE SAR satellite constellation customers. This collaborative service enables timelines as short as 15 minutes from image acquisition to processed SAR image delivery for government customers globally.
- “We are excited to be working with ICEYE to provide our customers enhanced capabilities in SAR imaging,” said Jan Petter Pedersen, Senior Vice President at KSAT. “The timelines involved in rapid imaging, downlinking and processing require new types of solutions. The combined SAR Ground Segment of ICEYE and KSAT is here to change the way customers think about the timeliness of the data they can use.”
- The current market capabilities and timelines for gaining access to commercial SAR imagery can easily vary from several hours to several days, if not weeks, for the complete chain of delivery. For many use cases such long timelines are prohibitive, as the imagery would then be too old by the time it is received for it to be useful. There has long existed a need to shrink these timelines to be closer to instantaneous, but due to the way SAR imaging and processing is performed, it has been difficult to attain globally. ICEYE and KSAT’s joint SAR Ground Segment offering enables access to a new level of service quality for SAR users worldwide.
- KSAT is the first ICEYE partner that has installed the newly developed ICEYE SAR processor for direct downlink capabilities, gaining the ability to offer its customers an unparalleled access to ICEYE SAR satellite constellation data. KSAT is developing new ground station capabilities and expanding their ground station network globally.
- “ICEYE is proud to continue to break the boundaries of what’s possible with its proprietary SAR technology” said Rafal Modrzewski, CEO and co-founder of ICEYE. “Working with KSAT has enabled us to provide even better services for our customers. The next step for ICEYE is to enable direct tasking of its commercially available constellation, providing users with even better capabilities.”
- KSAT is the leading provider of communication services for spacecraft and launch vehicles from their uniquely located global ground network. KSAT’s network today spans over 180 antennas at 21 sites across the globe (including Pole to Pole coverage from Antarctica to the Arctic), and is constantly expanding. KSAT is proud to be the behind-the-scenes bridge back to Earth, supporting the vast majority of space companies, agencies, and start-ups. Furthermore, KSAT provides a variety of products derived from both SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) and high-resolution optical satellite data. The key focus is maritime situational awareness, which includes NRT (Near Real-Time) vessel detection and oil spill monitoring, ice monitoring and other related services.
Figure 18: ICEYE-X2 radar satellite image of Singapore, showing large vessels and the Changi Airport Singapore (image credit: ICEYE)
• May 15, 2019: APSI (Asia Pacific Satellite Inc.) of Seoul, Korea and ICEYE, the global leader in small satellite SAR technology, announced today that the organizations have signed a memorandum of understanding about working together to support the South Korean New Space market. As a part of the agreement, APSI will supply ICEYE's SAR imagery in South Korea and also provides mutual support from both APSI and ICEYE to deliver radar imaging related satellite solutions for the South Korean market. 19)
- ICEYE is providing commercial data services to both government and industry users. The company is actively increasing the size of its SAR satellite constellation, with up to five more satellites being launched throughout 2019. ICEYE's small SAR satellites can be manufactured and launched cost-effectively, providing up to 1-meter resolution SAR images.
- APSI is a provider of equipment and services for multiple government programs in South Korea, and with the support of ICEYE’s leading technology, will grow to provide further data, hardware and radar imaging solutions to the governmental and commercial customers in South Korea.
Figure 19: Jang Soo Ryoo, Ph.D Chairman and CEO of APSI and Pekka Laurila, CSO and Co-founder of ICEYE at ICEYE offices in Finland at the singing of the contract (image credit: ICEYE)
Figure 20: ICEYE-X2 radar satellite image of Seoul, South Korea, acquired in February 2019 (image credit: ICEYE)
• January 22, 2019: Unrivaled
new satellite data combats illegal fishing and transshipment in EEZs
(Exclusive Economic Zones). 20)
Figure 21: Visualization: detecting dark vessels that do not have their required AIS tracking turned on (image credit: ICEYE)
- In addition to detecting dark vessels, this technology partnership will allow users a new level of accuracy in tracking vessels involved in trafficking of everything from arms, drugs, commodities, and people that want to avoid being seen. With the economic value of illegal fishing estimated to be up to 23B USD annually, this solution was developed to directly address this combination of economic, environmental, human rights, and industry-wide security issues.
- “We are constantly seeking partnerships that complete ICEYE’s near real-time satellite monitoring capability and help us create new services for our customers. To that end, we’re thrilled to work with Spire as it has become an industry leader with its approach in the development of its nanosatellite constellation,” said Pekka Laurila, CSO, and Co-Founder, ICEYE. “This alliance will provide more businesses and governments with a new and increased ability to monitor maritime traffic, including vessels that want to avoid detection.”
- The service will tap into Spire’s Satellite AIS (Automatic Identification System), which is currently used for continuous monitoring of vessels around the globe, in tandem with ICEYE’s satellite-based synthetic aperture radar imaging, which was designed to see dark vessels when they don’t report on their activity. Spire will utilize ICEYE’s unique ability to provide reliable, high revisit rates for radar satellite imaging, multiple times each day from anywhere on Earth, with imaging that functions through clouds at any time of day. This will allow both Spire and ICEYE to produce and provide a new data set of more substantial information at revisit rates never before possible.
Figure 22: Example case: Squid fishing near the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Argentina. In the colored ICEYE-X2 SAR image, there are Chinese squid fishing vessels that have their AIS tracking turned on, while other vessels have their AIS off. Without AIS, detected vessels remain unidentified (image credit: ICEYE)
- Argentina has been suffering from an increase in illegal squid fishing within its EEZ - the squid stocks are depleting and the available catch are decreasing in size. There have been incidents where the Argentine Coast Guard has had to take reactive actions against illegal vessels. This new dark vessel monitoring service from ICEYE and Spire brings systematic monitoring for cases such as this.
- “Data fusion holds an enormous potential impact for our world. By combining data sets like AIS and SAR, we gain previously unrealized insights in the movement of goods and people around the globe. Our relationship with ICEYE means that never before available tools will suddenly be an actionable resource to those committed to securing our oceans.” said John Lusk, General Manager, Spire Maritime.
- Spire Global Inc. of San Francisco has become an industry standard for data collection in the commercial aerospace sector and operates one of the largest constellations of private nanosatellites and ground station networks in the world. The company has also launched strategic partnerships across a myriad of verticals including deals with NASA, ESA and key players in the weather, maritime and aviation sectors.
Figure 23: An identified cargo ship North of Surabaya, Indonesia, detected with the ICEYE-X2 SAR instrument on December 22, 2018, 15:00 UTC (image credit: ICEYE)
• On December 11, 2018, ICEYE published its first radar image from the ICEYE-X2 satellite, launched on Spaceflight’s historic SSO-A mission last week. The image is of Natural Parks Aralar and Aizkorri-Aratz, Spain on December 7, 2018, taken only 4 days after launch. ICEYE-X2 was successfully launched on December 3, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. 21)
- “Our remarkable team is committed to keep delivering world-leading radar imaging satellites to help others make more informed decisions. We are ecstatic to have had not one but two groundbreaking missions this year,” said Rafal Modrzewski, CEO and co-founder of ICEYE. “Is it incredibly hard to develop small SAR satellites at such a fast pace? Absolutely. Is it impossible? The achievements of our team speak for themselves.”
Figure 24: The compressed image released to the public portrays the mountainous areas between Aralar and Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Parks, during night time. The area features the Basque Mountains and several communities connected by infrastructure. The published frame contains over 500 km2 of land, from a roughly 20 x 25 km area, originally imaged at 3 x 3 meter resolution. The published image is a significantly compressed file, as the original data downlinked was 2.4GB in size for just this individual frame (image credit: ICEYE)
• December 3, 2018: Launch of ICEYE-X2 on Spaceflight’s SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission makes history as first ever Finnish-Polish satellite. 22)
- ICEYE confirmed that the launch of its satellite mission ICEYE-X2 has been successful. Communications with the satellite were successfully established at 19:58 CET, after the satellite was delivered into orbit via Spaceflight’s SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
- Now in a sun-synchronous low Earth orbit, ICEYE-X2 is being commissioned for radar imaging. Launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the launch represents ICEYE’s second satellite successfully placed into orbit within one year and marks a crucial step towards the company’s goal of creating the world’s largest SAR satellite constellation by the end of 2019.
- “If it weren’t for the incredible hard work of our teams, as well as the continued support from our investors and advisors, we would not be where we are today,” said Rafal Modrzewski, CEO and co-founder of ICEYE. “Although there’s always challenging work to be done, we are extremely proud of the progress we’ve made within just one year. We’re excited for what is to come in the near future and look forward to pushing the boundaries of what is possible even further.”
- Building upon ICEYE’s successful first mission ICEYE-X1, ICEYE-X2 has greatly increased in-orbit performance over its predecessor. These advancements include a significantly improved imaging resolution and the addition of propulsion for orbital adjustments, among others. The ICEYE-X2 satellite mission is aiming for further improvements in ICEYE’s SAR imaging technology, and for the active delivery of SAR satellite imagery to initial customers.
- Launched in January 2018 on-board India’s PSLV-C40 rocket, ICEYE-X1 was the world’s first SAR satellite under 100 kg placed into orbit. ICEYE-X1 successfully collected more than 600 images throughout its mission. By the end of 2019, ICEYE is on track to launch a total of 8 additional satellites.
1) ”ICEYE-X2 - Continuous Advancements in Small Satellite SAR,” ICEYE, 2020, URL: https://www.iceye.com/resources/missions/iceye-x2
2) ”ICEYE SAR Product Guide,” Version 2.0, Released 14 August 2019, URL: https://www.iceye.com/hubfs/Downloadables/ICEYE-SAR-Product-Guide-2019.pdf
Stephen Clark, ”Spaceflight’s 64-satellite rideshare
mission set to last five hours,” Spaceflight Now, 3 December
2018, URL: https://spaceflightnow.com/2018/12/03
Stephen Clark, ”Spaceflight preps for first launch of unique
orbiting satellite deployers,” Spaceflight Now, 23 August 2018,
5) Jeff Foust, ”Spaceflight gears up for dedicated Falcon 9 launch,” Space News, 6 August 2018, URL: https://spacenews.com/spaceflight-gears-up-for-dedicated-falcon-9-launch/t).
7) ”SAR Interferometry Demonstrated with an 18-day Global Repeat by ICEYE,” ICEYE Press Release, 6 May 2020, URL: https://www.iceye.com/press/press-releases
”ICEYE Demonstrates SAR Video Capability from Current SAR
Satellite Constellation,” ICEYE Press Release, 09 March 2020,
”ICEYE Dark Vessel Detection Now Globally Available for
Government Organizations,” ICEYE Press Release, 20 January 2020,
”ICEYE and RS Metrics Enter Into Agreement to Provide Unmatched
Global Iron Ore Stockpile Monitoring,” ICEYE Press Release, 6
November 2019, URL: https://www.iceye.com/press/press-releases
”ICEYE High-Resolution Spotlight Radar Imaging Now Commercially
Available,” ICEYE Press Release, 16 October 2019, URL: https://www.iceye.com/press/press-releases
”KSAT and ICEYE Extend Partnership with More Radar Satellite
Imagery and Faster Data Analysis,” ICEYE Press Release, 25
September 2019, URL: https://www.iceye.com/press/press-releases
”Two Recently Launched ICEYE SAR Satellites Commissioned - Added
to Commercial Constellation,” ICEYE Press Release, 12 September
2019, URL: https://www.iceye.com/press/press-releases
”ICEYE Releases World-First Under 1-Meter Resolution Radar
Imagery from SAR Microsatellites,” ICEYE Press Release, 9 August
2019, URL: https://www.iceye.com/press/press-releases
17) ”ICEYE Reports Successful July 2019 Launch of Two SAR Satellites,” ICEYE, 5 July 2019, URL: https://www.iceye.com/press/press-releases
”Breaking the 15 Minutes Barrier from Acquisition to Delivery for
SAR imaging,” ICEYE Press Release, 7 June 2019, URL: https://www.iceye.com/press/press-releases
”APSI and ICEYE to Provide South Korean New Space Market with SAR
Imaging Solutions,” ICEYE Press Release, 15 May 2019, URL: https://www.iceye.com/press/press-releases
”ICEYE and Spire Join Forces To Enable Global Monitoring Of Dark
Vessels At Sea,” ICEYE Press Release, 22 January 2019, URL: https://www.iceye.com/press/press-releases
21) ”First Radar Image from ICEYE-X2 Published Only A Week After Launch,” ICEYE, 11 December 2018, URL: https://www.iceye.com/press/press-releases
22) ”Launch Success, ICEYE-X2 SAR Satellite Communications Established,” ICEYE Press Release, 3 December 2018, URL: https://www.iceye.com/press/press-releases
The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: ”Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors” (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (firstname.lastname@example.org).