FLEET OF TOASTER-SIZED SATELLITES WILL ORBIT EARTH, PROVIDE NEAR REAL-TIME MONITORING
By: Cameron Scott
Silicon Valley sprung up on big open stretches of land where military installations had once been. Early semiconductor and computing businesses needed the space. But as Moore’s law progressed and mobile computing became the thing, the tech industry crept up into the seven-by-seven mile peninsula that is San Francisco. The city’s South of Market district is now nearly a strip mall of tech startups.
But tucked away in one of the neighborhood’s utilitarian office buildings is a technology company that harkens back to the early days of Silicon Valley: Planet Labs, founded by former NASA engineers, which builds satellites to photograph the Earth. Even so, the company doesn’t need a ton of space: Its satellites are about the size of a breadbox. The company recently recruited a batch of Stanford University students and built 28 satellites in 17 days in its cramped SoMa offices (pictured above).
In early January, Planet Labs (initially called Cosmogia) sent 28 satellites to the international space station; earlier this month, NASA began deploying them into orbit. Sixteen are now in orbit and transmitting photos.