Earth imaging start-up lost 26 satellites in Antares explosion

Planet Labs says the failure won't kill its plans, but didn't comment on if the satellites were insured

Orbital Science Corp.'s Antares rocket explodes seconds after lift-off on October 28, 2014

Orbital Science Corp.'s Antares rocket explodes seconds after lift-off on October 28, 2014

Planet Labs, a San Francisco-based start-up that wants to provide daily images of every spot on earth, lost 26 micro satellites when an Orbital Sciences rocket exploded shortly after lift-off Tuesday.

The Antares rocket burst into flames seconds after rising into the sky from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, falling back to the launch pad and then spectacularly exploding in a huge fireball.

The rocket was carrying a Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station. Among the Cygnus cargo were 26 satellites, the fourth group of satellites to be launched by the company. They would have worked in unison with the three sets of satellites launched previously, to provide more regularly updated photographs of the planet.

The satellites on the Antares rocket were destined for an orbit that would have produced images with a roughly 4-meter per pixel resolution -- considerably less detailed than other commercial providers -- but would have provided images more often.

The company declined a request for comment, but in a statement on its website said the failure wouldn't be catastrophic to the company.

"Planet Labs understands the risks of launch," it said. "Our approach to mitigate these risks is to deploy our fleets of satellites on multiple launch vehicles, from multiple vendors. We also place more satellites in orbit than we require in each launch so that if satellites fail in orbit we ensure continuity."

It didn't say if the satellites were covered by insurance.

While Tuesday's launch won't kill its plans, it will slow them down.

Planet Labs has plans to launch a further set of satellites in 2015. It's unclear if the company will attempt to replace the satellites lost on the Antares rocket.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags popular sciencePlanet Labs

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?