Earth Observation is Getting Better with Emerging Space Technologies
Space exploration is an exciting niche that’s gaining momentum worldwide. Thanks to intellectual curiosity and rapidly evolving technology, research institutions, and space companies are launching their space toys now and then.
One of the common space missions to date is Earth observation, which is also advancing with newer and more compact payloads emerging to market.
This sector is already setting a record in the space exploration niche with next-gen communication systems and cutting-edge satellite camera systems.
Satellite Technology for Earth Observation
Satellites are objects moving around a planet. They can be natural, e.g., the Moon orbiting the Earth, or artificial, e.g., communication or Earth observation satellites. Usually, when someone talks about satellites, they mean artificial types.
These spacecraft are launched using rockets into the low Earth orbit, medium Earth orbit, or geostationary orbit, where most of them carry out different missions. As of 2018, approximately 5,000 satellites remained in space, with only about 1,900 being operational.
Satellites orbit high above the sky and have a bird’s eye view making them ideal for observing a large area at a go. They are often equipped with payloads that execute specific missions.
Spacecraft used for Earth observation carry specially-designed satellite cameras and communication systems with them. Those in medium Earth orbit will also have cameras that take pictures of planets, the sun, and other space objects.
The advancement in camera and satellite technology has helped in Earth observation, navigation, and climate observation. This is made successful by using advanced satellite subsystems that attend to many tasks, e.g., power generation, scientific instrumentation, communication, etc.
Satellites launched into space for earth observation purposes use cameras to carry out the following missions:
- Weather forecasting
- Monitoring natural resources, e.g., agriculture, energy, freshwater, and responding to natural disasters, e.g., earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, etc.
- Tracking wildlife trends and biodiversity.
- Measuring and monitoring land-use change, e.g., deforestation.
- Predicting and mitigating climate change.
Satellite Cameras for Earth observation
With space technology continually growing, lots of data is being driven by Earth observation, thanks to the mini-cameras in space. Nowadays, satellite cameras are tiny, more compact, and powerful than ever before.
A satellite camera is designed to capture images of space and Earth objects using electromagnetic waves. These satellite cameras have sensor detectors that actively scan the Earth’s surface for electromagnetic radiations that are emitted or reflected.
Like aerospace cameras, satellite cameras are designed for reliability, precision, and accuracy. Modern microsatellite cameras perform spatial resolution imaging and mapping for a broad range of scientific and commercial applications.
These cameras integrate efficient and compact optomechanical designs with the latest innovation in electronics. For instance, optical components used in these cameras are radiation-resistant with an ultra-low coefficient of thermal expansion. This ensures optimal performance without distortion.
Choosing the Right Satellite Cameras
With several satellite cameras in the market, choosing the right type for your space mission is critical. Most spacecraft are designed to complete their space mission in less than 30 years. Microsatellites, for instance, could have a lifespan of 10 to 25 years, depending on their objectives.
That means the components making up the satellites should be reliable enough to support such a lifespan. Being the most critical payload for Earth observation, Cameras should be compact and designed to withstand extreme conditions in space.
Here are some of the factors to consider when choosing a satellite camera:
- Quality of lenses – the camera should be high-quality and rugged enough to withstand radiation and extreme thermal conditions.
- Size – The size of the camera should be compatible with the satellite. Some cameras designed for CubeSats weigh as low as 0.4 KG, while those designed for larger microsatellites can weigh up to 45 – 50 KG.
- Technical specification – camera specs such as the Ground Sampling Distance (GSD) and Swath determine the spectral and resolution imaging capabilities.
Last but not least is selecting a reputed camera manufacturer in the space exploration industry that has been in the market for a long time. Be sure to check the reviews, years of experience, certification, testimonials, etc.
Earth observation is one niche of the space exploration industry that has seen rapid growth in recent years. Rapid tech innovation has seen smaller spacecraft launched into space, which has meant that payloads such as cameras should also be redesigned for size without compromising quality and functionality.
Now that you’ve read through to the end, do you have any questions or comments about space exploration and the use of satellite cameras in Earth observation? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section.