Satellite Vu Taps SpaceX to Launch Second Thermal Data Collection Satellite

Satellite Vu signed a contract with SpaceX to launch a second satellite that can collect thermal data. The Mid-wave Infrared (MWIR) imaging satellite will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket as early as 2024, sooner than Satellite Vu had originally planned.

In a statement announcing the new contract, Satellite Vu CEO Anthony Baker said:

“Environmental issues are top of the agenda with the summer heatwave and the proliferation of wildfires over the past few months, reminding everyone of the urgent need to take action to provide a hospitable climate for all within our lifetimes. We are excited to have agreed our second deal with SpaceX to launch our thermal monitoring satellites which will guide the improvement and enforcement of environmental standards during this critical time.”

The new satellite is a twin of its first MWIR imaging satellite, which will begin monitoring natural and artificial heat sources after SpaceX launches it in May 2023. The satellites can monitor energy lost to heat in buildings like factories and industrial plants. Satellite Vu says the data can be used to refine manufacturing companies’ efforts to become carbon-neutral by increasing their energy efficiency.

The satellites can improve compliance with “green” standards like Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) and ESG standards. They will also combat “greenwashing” by providing more accurate measurements of companies’ impact on the environment.

Oil and gas companies have especially been a target of “greenwashing” accusations., for instance, accused them of making meaningless pledges to reduce their impact on the environment and then making very few actual changes. “Greenwashing” involves falsely advertising a business’ environmental sustainability while actually not making much effort to reduce the company’s impact on the environment.

SpaceX is no stranger to launching Earth-observation and climate monitoring satellites. Last year, it inked a deal with Planet Labs to launch a series of Earth-imaging satellites through 2025. These satellites will be capable of making a complete scan of Earth once every 24 hours and providing up to 25 terabytes of data daily. The data can be used to track a variety of conditions on the ground, ranging from natural disasters to illegal logging.

SpaceX also has a deal with MethaneSAT to launch its methane emissions monitoring satellite, which will be useful for tracking possible methane leaks. It launched an Earth observation satellite for the Royal Thai Air Force on the dedicated rideshare mission Transporter-2 in July 2021. SpaceX launched the Sentinel-6 satellite, which is used to monitor changes in ocean levels that may be caused by climate change, in November 2020.

Satellite Vu will add to existing capabilities to accurately monitor activity that has an impact on the environment with its two MWIR imaging satellites. While it hasn’t said whether it will launch the satellites on an already-used Falcon 9 booster, it can reduce launch costs and its own impact on the environment by not having to manufacture an all-new booster. The Falcon 9 can launch up to 22,800 kilograms into low Earth orbit or 8,300 kilograms into geosynchronous transfer orbit for $67 million.