Non-Earth Imaging

Maxar Intelligence was the first company licensed to conduct non-Earth imaging (NEI) for both government and commercial purposes. Satellites in the Maxar constellation can collect and distribute images of space objects across the low Earth orbit (LEO)—the area ranging from 200 kilometers up to 1,000 kilometers in altitude—as well as across medium Earth orbit and geosynchronous orbit.

Our constellation is capable of imaging LEO objects at less than 6 inch resolution and can also support tracking of objects across a much wider volume of space. Taken together, these capabilities foster greater space resiliency and situational awareness for operators.

Specific solutions that Maxar’s NEI can address include:

  • Space Domain Awareness – Helping identify and characterize space objects, assessing the operational environment for space operations, and supporting space-to-space and space-to-ground mission planning and training.
  • Space Traffic Management – Supporting on-orbit collision risk assessment and maneuver planning, end-of-life verification and controlled de-orbit collision avoidance.
  • Satellite Operations – Assisting operators with navigation safety, asset health assessments, on-orbit servicing and defunct satellite monitoring.
  • National Security Missions – Providing support for the U.S. government and its allies.

Photo of the International Space Station taken by WorldView-3, September 2022

Navigating, Understanding and Mitigating Risk in the Crowded Space Domain

Space is increasingly becoming crowded. According to the U.S. Department of Defense's global Space Surveillance Network, more than 15,000 pieces of space debris larger than 4 inches have been tracked. It is also estimated that there are around 200,000 pieces sized between 0.4 and 4 inches, and millions of pieces smaller than 1 cm. According to NASA, much more debris—too small to be tracked, but large enough to threaten human spaceflight and robotic missions—exists in the near-Earth space environment. Since both the debris and spacecraft are traveling at extremely high speeds (approximately 15,700 mph in LEO), an impact of even a tiny piece of orbital debris with a spacecraft could create big problems.

The Value of NEI

In 2016, Maxar Intelligence's WorldView-2 imaging satellite was hit by a non-tracked piece of space debris. After the debris incident, the company used one of its other satellites to image WorldView-2 and determine that the damage was minimal. Maxar is proud to offer the same solution to the growing number of commercial and government customers that will benefit from the additional data for satellite operations and resiliency.

As more satellites and megaconstellations come online, understanding where and how space debris and space operations may be impacted by the growing number of objects on orbit is crucial for mission success.

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