Speaker interview: Agnieszka Lukaszczyk, Senior Director, European Affairs at Planet
You will participate in the Industry Focus: The Smallsat Market Forecasts, Analysis and Opportunities session at the Smallsats Conference on Tuesday, 19 November. What are the main challenges and opportunities facing the small-satellite industry at the moment, do you reckon?
Companies operating small satellites are still trying to position themselves in the satellite sector as credible space actors with high-quality, sustainable offerings. Small satellites are fairly new on the market and many are watching to see if they can actually offer what they promise and sustain their business model, which is very different to what we have seen to date with traditional satellite operators. Mega-constellations with frequent revisit time, lower costs and agile technology are game changers. At Planet we operate over 150 satellites with a daily cadence. This hasn’t been done before and that is very exciting.
In order to provide increased flexibility of services to customer, there appears to be a greater need for advanced onboard processing technologies and other types of data analysis. What role will software and autonomous systems play in the future of the smallsat market?
Without a doubt we will see more onboard processing in the future. This will allow for some image processing to occur so we may not need to send imagery back down to the ground, and instead send just results, detections, vector data, etc. This may help us avoid sending cloudy imagery, and potentially allow satellites to coordinate capture between themselves and perform activities where there is a hand-off from one satellite to another. That being said, it is not something that should be done for the sake of doing, as in many cases it can add unnecessary complexity. We are looking into all this and more at Planet.
The smallsats market has opened up tremendous capabilities for various end-user markets, such as transportation, maritime, precision agriculture, environmental monitoring and many others. Which other markets (who currently don’t know they need space!) do you think could be greatly enhanced by the services the smallsat industry provides?
Frankly, space is the limit! Satellite data can be used for a vast array of users and we are just scratching the surface with the users that we currently have. Adding AI to EO will offer unprecedented insights into the world we live in. You can’t change what you can’t see. By regularly monitoring Earth and quantifying what we are seeing, we become increasingly able to answer questions about our surroundings. These insights can be used by insurance companies, oil and gas companies, urban planners, local authorities and decision makers at large (just to name a few).
In terms of industry news, what development, announcement or otherwise has stood out most to you in the past year and why?
Exciting things have been happening in space in the last year. Mega-constellations for EO, internet and weather are being launched. We are getting better and potentially less expensive access to space with reusable or small rockets. The community is seriously discussing going to the Moon and beyond, and we want to do all these things in a responsible and sustainable way. It isn’t just about the competition and profits but also about how we can improve life on Earth. This is what drives us at Planet.
If you could have one historical figure over to dinner, who would it be and why?
I would be delighted to dine with Nicolaus Copernicus. He is my compatriot and grew up in a time when science was questioned and innovation was considered to be evil. Despite being ridiculed for his work, he persevered and made amazing discoveries. I would love to talk to him about how he was able to overcome all the criticism and pursue the research that ultimately changed the way humanity perceives the world we live in.
We’re looking forward to seeing you at the Smallsats Conference at Space Tech Expo Europe. What are you most looking forward to at the show?
I am very excited to meet like-minded individuals who have a similar passion for space and want to make a positive difference in the world.
Join Agnieszka at the free-to-attend Smallsats Conference at Space Tech Expo Europe 19-21 November 2019.