NewSpace in Germany: Planet‘s Berlin Office presents its activities

Tom Segert is one of the most prominent and inspiring personalities in the German space sector. He co-founded the company Berlin Space Technologies and uses an agile and innovative approach to develope and build satellites. Under the title New Space in Germany he already published several articles on his LinkedIn page, you can find the whole series here, Kindly we are able to republish some of this articles on newspace.vision. Enjoy!

A view forward – A view back.

Many things are moving in Berlin. A number of initiatives towards NewSpace have been kicked-off in the last year. One of them NewSpace Vision is an active player organising a series of meetings with top speakers from key players of the industry. NewSpace Vision (www.newspace.vision) has been founded by Sven Przywarra and is co-organised by Daniel Seidel. Both Sven and Daniel are good friends and very active in their vision to make Berlin the leading NewSpace Hub in Germany.

If you are in Berlin I encourage you to visit their meetings or if you have an interesting company active in NewSpace make contacts, the guys are happy to give you a forum to present the awesome things that you are doing.

Planet in Berlin

Yesterdays Highlight was the visit of Mr. Vitale head of Planet’s Berlin office. Planet has an office in Berlin since they have acquired the RapidEye Constellation from Blackbridge in 2015. The presentation in the usual Planet splendour focused on the vision to image the whole world every day and by this create actionable information. What I found interesting is that each of the Doves have today a 100Mbit/s X-Band transmitter which downloads data to 26 receiving stations all over the world. This is a pretty impressive feature for such a small satellite and the whole constellation. As commercial feasibility is always dependent on how many pixels you can download this potentially increases profitability.

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The second part of the presentation was about Planets partner programs which allows commercial companies (including start-ups) to build their own applications (Application Developer Program) based on Planets data. The same is true for researchers which have access to some of the data of Planet free of charge. Part of the data accessible for application builders and scientists is the RapidEye archive. Mr. Vitale mentioned the fact that formerly no-one was interested in yesterdays data but today due to data mining this archive is one of the cash cows of Planet.

Back to the Origins

This brings me to remember the history of RapidEye. The system was envisioned in Germany end of the 90s long before the current new space boom. Built under the management by MDA, based on an SSTL bus and a Jena Optronik Payload the 5 satellites of the RapidEye constellation were the first predominantly privately financed earth observation constellation. Launched in 2008 the RapidEye constellation focused on agriculture and insurance markets and struggled to gain enough market presence. With a total investment of 160MEUR mostly financed by government secured private bank credits the company struggled make end meet. Rapideye AG filed bancrupcy in early 2011 and was bought at a knockdown price by the Canadian company Blackbridge in Summer 2011 and sold to Planet in 2015. In the years since its foundation RapidEye developed sophisticated algorithms in data analysis and camera calibration which are quite frankly a gold mine for Planet to use. For me this is another sign how German engineering excellence was not matched by sufficient market success. The question is whether this will be the same this time round or whether todays NewSpace companies in Germany will be more successful.

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This article was originaly published on LinkedIn on the 1.2.2017. Image courtesy of Tom Segert.

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