Albedo Provides Close Earth Observation from Low Orbit

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Albedo, a satellite imagery startup, is gearing up for its first commercial launch next spring with its innovative high-resolution camera-equipped satellite, Clarity. Clarity will launch on SpaceX’s Transporter-13 mission in February 2025, marking Albedo’s entry into the commercial Earth observation industry.

The satellite has already secured seven customers for its image tasking, including SkyFi, a satellite imagery broker, and Open Grid Europe, a German energy company. Clarity’s ability to capture images at 10-centimeter-per-pixel resolution will make it an attractive option for commercial and government customers, with prices potentially lower than those of existing satellite imagery providers.

Albedo’s unique spacecraft design features a large aperture telescope and a powerful capability, which will enable it to collect high-resolution imagery in very low Earth orbit (VLEO). This is in contrast to other commercial satellites, which typically operate in higher orbital altitudes.

The startup’s CEO, Topher Haddad, emphasized the complexity of the Clarity system, which is composed of a large and powerful robotic system. “A lot of people probably think we’re more of a small satellite, but it’s a pretty complex robotic system with a large aperture telescope, and a pretty powerful capability,” he said.

Albedo’s decision to make its satellites larger than those of other commercial Earth observation providers seems counterintuitive, as one might expect that making satellites lighter would be crucial to counteract atmospheric drag. However, the company is using ultra-efficient electric propulsion and design decisions, such as mounting solar panels on the spacecraft components, to minimize drag.

The company also announced the addition of Kathryn Tobey to its board, who brings 34 years of experience at Lockheed Martin, where she worked on high-tech national security projects. Tobey’s background in national security and her understanding of high-performance imaging satellites make her a valuable asset for Albedo.

Aria Alamalhodaei
Aria Alamalhodaei
Aria Alamalhodaei covers the space and defense industries. Previously, she covered the public utilities and the power grid for California Energy Markets. You can also find her work at MIT’s Undark Magazine, The Verge, and Discover Magazine. She received an MA in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Aria is based in Austin, Texas.

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