Payam Banazadeh and Capella Space Launch SatelliteJanuary 12, 2021
If you’re interested in the modern space industry you’ve probably been following some of the advancements being made in the field of satellite technology. The area of focus has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years off of the potential that many see around monitoring conditions on the planet’s surface. Payam Banazadeh, CEO of Capella Space, has recently led his company in launching its first satellite, Sequoia, into orbit. The satellite has begun beaming back some intriguing images which have individuals and organizations around the world thinking about new uses for the tech. Read on for a look at the technology and the ways in which it may be used.
The promise of the satellite technology is, paradoxically, related to the limitations of traditional optical satellites. Though optical satellites have been known for their ability to provide breathtaking imagery of the Earth’s surface, they’re not known for their reliability. That’s because they need an external light source to function and they also need a clear line of sight to the ground from space. That means no images at night and no images when there’s significant cloud cover. Since half of the planet is shrouded in darkness at any given time, and another half is covered by clouds, there’s actually precious little of the Earth that’s visible to optical satellites at any point in time.
Contrast this fact with Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) technology, which is the tech that underlies the work done by Payam Banazadeh at Capella Space. SAR satellites don’t rely on external light sources to function. Instead, they emit their own energy and then monitor how it reflects off the planet’s surface in order to create an image. The energy can also penetrate cloud cover. This means that these satellites can image the surface of the planet day or night and during inclement weather conditions. This allows for continuous monitoring capabilities and opens the door to a host of real-world applications that are impractical when dealing with optical satellites.
Another perk of SAR satellites is their size. These satellites can be shrunk down to very small sizes, allowing them to be launched into space much more inexpensively than their larger counterparts. This means more satellites in space and easier access to information. It also makes it more feasible for companies like Capella Space to get large constellations of satellites into orbit, allowing them to provide continuous monitoring of areas of the Earth on an hour by hour basis.
One of the uses envisioned for SAR satellites is the monitoring of ports of call around the world. International ports are notorious logistical nightmares. Global shipments converge at these ports needing documentation, storage, transfers to other forms of transportation, and more. Amidst the chaos, economic actors may have a difficult time making informed decisions pertaining to their own cargo. This can include decisions about when to use a specific port, what method of transportation to utilize, and what route to plan to use. These logistics decisions can be critical to supporting an efficiently functioning business, but oftentimes the information with which to make these decisions just isn’t available through traditional means.
With Sequoia, Capella Space has been showing that it can provide actionable data to help business leaders make the decisions to drive the economy forward. As a proof of its effectiveness, the prototype satellite has been monitoring the Port of Shanghai to measure its utilization. Not only has it been able to compile raw numbers about the goods that have passed in and out of the port, it has also created time-lapse images of the port’s usage. When stitched together, these images create a telling portrait of the port over time that can help to provide shippers with key information to support their efforts.
Another important way in which these satellites can support quality of life on Earth is through their ability to monitor weather conditions and the fallout from extreme events. Although optical satellites have often been used to monitor weather patterns in the past, the cloud formations from extreme patterns can often impede this initiative. This can be especially true when one wants to see not the weather itself, but the effects of it on the surface below.
The satellite company has been showcasing its ability to do just that through its recent imaging of destruction caused by Hurricane Eta in La Lima, Honduras. The released imaging shows the devastation of the hurricane including flooding and structural damage. A released image of the surface, taken at 3:06 am, showcases the satellite’s ability to view ground conditions no matter what time. This helps it provide timely and reliable data from anywhere on Earth.
Another way in which business heads are taking advantage of data from Capella Space is to use its images to monitor specific industrial applications. The space company recently provided an example of this on its social media when it released an image of floating roof oil tanks at the Magellan Central Cushing Terminal. The image shows the oil tanks before their contents were shipped to the refinery for additional use.
The images illustrates the ability of SAR technology to produce highly precise and refined data for industrial applications. With its ability to make timely and accurate images of surface conditions, numerous organizations are already interested in partnering with the company. This has included commodities companies, conservation organizations, and defense contractors. This range of interest helps to showcase the broad number of applications for the emerging satellite tech.
For those interested in the modern space technology industry, the work being completed in the field of satellites serves as a constant source of fascination. As tech becomes increasingly more refined, the ability of these satellites to provide data on our world grows to meet a host of modern needs. Efforts by Payam Banazadeh and his company, Capella Space, help to showcase some of the potential of these endeavors. By looking to new images released by the company’s prototype satellite, we’re able to catch a glimpse of a future where increased access to data helps to fuel economic innovation, worldwide security initiatives, and much more.