Shooting for the Stars

Maxar Technologies building “legion” of commercial small sats


When an equipment malfunction caused system failure in January 2019, DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-4 commercial Earth observation satellite was just two years into what was supposed to be a 10- to 15-year program. In a subsequent interview with SpaceNews, former DigitalGlobe President Dan Jablonsky called it a “terrible loss.”

But the company now known as Maxar Technologies (Booth 639)—of which Jablonsky is president and CEO—isn’t looking back. Instead, it’s moving forward. Its destination: WorldView Legion, a next-generation constellation of commercial small satellites, which is expected to launch in early 2021 and to be the galvanizing driver behind Maxar’s presence at this year’s GEOINT Symposium.

“We’re about halfway through the build cycle for WorldView Legion,” said Tony Frazier, Maxar’s executive vice president of global field operations. “That augmentation to our constellation is going to build on the leadership position we have with high-resolution optical imagery, and it’s also going to add a very high revisit component to our program. Instead of seeing a location once a day, we’re going to be able to see many locations around the world on an hourly basis.”

At GEOINT 2019—Maxar’s first exhibiting as a single, unified company—the principal objective is illustrating what its new capabilities will mean for customer GEOINT missions. During demonstrations in its booth, Maxar will illustrate three capabilities in particular, according to Frazier.

First, is the ability to create “living maps” that show the world—including roads, buildings, and points of interest—as it really is instead of how it used to be. Second, is the ability to enable indicator and warning missions by applying machine learning algorithms to commercial imagery, which allows users to engage in change detection and to understand patterns of life. Finally, is the ability to receive and analyze commercial imagery at the tactical edge.

“Our focus is on revealing insight where and when it matters to impact critical missions … and answer at scale really interesting questions about our planet,” Frazier concluded.

Headline Image: Maxar offers capabilities and expertise in Earth imagery, machine learning and analytics, satellites and spacecraft systems, and nimble robotics. 

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