Press Release

First Light: ConstellR’s First Thermal Images Return To Earth

By SpaceRef Editor
April 6, 2022
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Following the successful launch of its first thermal infrared monitoring payload in February to the International Space Station (ISS), ConstellR saw its LisR instrument returning first thermal images to earth last week. First processing of results reveals the images are well focused, sharp and allow for an unprecedented view of streets, rivers, fields and specific urban and rural land uses, hinting at their strong potential to support operational land management.

A series of in-field agricultural pilot demonstrations based on this first data from LisR is already planned for the 2022 growing season. These will take place across Europe and North America, with customers from EO analytics, agribusiness and research sectors set to understand how timely thermal satellite imagery can improve their practices. 

“Since the launch of LisR, we have seen a significant market pull, with international prospects approaching us to test our data across a range of commercial agricultural applications” – Dr. Lina Hollender, Chief Commercial Officer at ConstellR. 

ConstellR’s first infrared camera captures data from across the planet within two thermal infrared bands. From this information, along with additional earth observation data, it is possible to derive the Land Surface Temperature (LST), a key environmental variable at the heart of water, carbon, and energy cycles.

In order to bring the most value to customers in the agricultural industry and support a more resilient and sustainable agri-food system, it is necessary to provide a high level of geometric and radiometric precision allowing the accurate determination of LST. From precise LST, it is possible to derive higher-level products such as evapotranspiration much more reliably than is currently possible today.

The FAO (2020) estimates that irrigated areas in sub-Saharan Africa will more than double by 2050. Equipping these areas with robust thermal data will help optimise irrigation practices and significantly maximise yield. Since agriculture is responsible for 70% of all freshwater withdrawals, whilst two thirds of the world’s population will face water shortages by 2025, being able to optimise the use of water based on new, affordable, datasets is critical. 

ConstellR’s LisR mission focuses primarily on the demonstration of the company’s patent-pending TIR monitoring technology. Already this first payload can provide high resolution imaging stream to feed to customers however. ConstellR is about to launch a new digital platform through which customers will be able to access a harmonised stream of thermal data, collected from a range of sources, now including LisR. This significantly augments the viability of the current thermal infrared offer for commercial applications. 

LisR’s goal, to provide high resolution LST data, is similar to NASA’s Ecostress mission, which collects data mainly over US soil. Whilst capable of collecting globally and already providing much more geometric detail (80 m) than Sentinel-3 (1000 m),  LisR  is limited by the ISS orbit and swath width of 25 km which cannot guarantee a regular pass over of the same region at the same time of day (ideal for agriculture applications). These limitations will vanish with the launch of the company’s satellite constellation, the first phase of which starts in 2023, ramping up to a capability of daily revisit by 2024.

“We are thrilled with the performance of LisR’s ‘first light’ imagery. Our goal is to aim for the same level of radiometric accuracy as NASA´s Ecostress system: we’re continuing to evaluate this and look forward to presenting more detailed characteristics of the data at the 4S Symposium in Portugal as well as the Living Planet Symposium in Bonn, in May”, says Marius Bierdel, ConstellR’s CTO. 

ConstellR is currently hiring – visit our careers page for the latest open positions

SpaceRef staff editor.