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IndustryEarth Observation
Founded1998 (1998)
Area served
Key people
Dr. Manfred Krischke, Founder
Number of employees
Two of 5 RapidEye satellites
RapidEye's S-Band antenna

RapidEye AG was a German geospatial information provider focused on assisting in management decision-making through services based on their own Earth observation imagery. The company operated a five-satellite constellation producing 5-meter resolution imagery that was designed and implemented by MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) of Richmond, Canada.

Today, RapidEye refers to the constellation of 5 earth observation satellites owned and operated by Planet Labs.


1996: The RapidEye business concept was designed by Kayser-Threde GmbH, based on a call for ideas from the DLR (German Aerospace Agency), on how to commercialize remote sensing in Germany.

1998: RapidEye was established as an independent company in Munich with seed financing from a few private investors and Vereinigte Hagelversicherung, a German agricultural insurance provider.

2004: In 2004, funding was secured for the RapidEye satellite constellation and ground segment with the help of the European Union, the State of Brandenburg (Germany), a banking consortium consisting of Commerzbank, EDC (Export Development Canada) and KfW Banking Group. Through a contract with the CCC (Canadian Commercial Corporation), MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) was awarded the contract as the prime contractor to build RapidEye's satellite system. Originally located in Munich, the company relocated 60 km southwest of Berlin to Brandenburg an der Havel in 2004.

2008: RapidEye earned ISO 9001:2000 certification in April from TÜV Nord. On August 29, 2008, a Dnepr rocket (a refurbished ICBM missile), was successfully launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan carrying RapidEye's constellation of five Earth observation satellites designed and implemented by MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) of Richmond, Canada.[2]

2009: After the satellites completed their MPAR phase (consisting of testing and calibration) they became commercially operational in February 2009.

2015 : Planet Labs acquired RapidEye.[3]


The constellation consist of satellites named RapidEye 1 (codename Tachys, COSPAR 2008-040C), RapidEye 2 (codename Mati, COSPAR 2008-040A), RapidEye 3 (codename Choma, COSPAR 2008-040D), RapidEye 4 (codename Choros, COSPAR 2008-040E) and RapidEye 5 (codename Trochia, COSPAR 2008-040B). All the satellites were launched simultaneously by a Dnepr rocket on 28 August, 2008[4]. All the satellites have a common orbit; they are separated by 19 minutes orbit interval.[5]

Five Identical Satellites: Built by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL)[6] of Guildford, subcontracted by MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA), each satellite is based on an evolution of the flight-proven SSTL-100 bus. Each satellite measures less than one cubic meter and weighs 150 kg (bus + payload).

Each of RapidEye's five satellites contain identical sensors, are equally calibrated and travel on the same orbital plane (at an altitude of 630 km). Together, the 5 satellites are capable of collecting over 4 million km² of 5 m resolution, 5-band color imagery every day.

Sensors: The Jena-Optronik[7] multi-spectral imager, the Jena Spaceborne Scanner JSS 56, is a pushbroom sensor carried on each satellite. Each sensor is capable of collecting image data in five distinct bands of the electromagnetic spectrum: Blue (440-510 nm), Green (520-590 nm), Red (630-690 nm), Red-Edge (690-730 nm) and Near-Infrared (760-880 nm). The nominal resolution on the ground is 6.5 meters, corresponding to NIIRS 2.

RapidEye's satellites are the first commercial satellites to include the Red-Edge band, which is sensitive to changes in chlorophyll content. Studies show that this band can assist in monitoring vegetation health, improve species separation and help in measuring protein and nitrogen content in biomass.

Technical specifications[edit]

  • Number of Satellites: 5
  • Spacecraft Lifetime: 7 years
  • Orbit Altitude: 630 km in Sun-synchronous orbit
  • Global Revisit Time: Daily (off-nadir) / 5.5 days (at nadir)
  • Inclination: 97.8 degrees (solar-synchron)
  • Equator Crossing Time: 11:00 am local time (approximately)
  • Ground sampling distance (nadir): 6,5 m
  • Pixel size (orthorectified): 5 m
  • Swath Width: 77 km
  • On board data storage: Up to 1500 km of image data per orbit
  • Image capture capacity: 5 million km2/day
Sensor Performance Specifications
440 – 510 nm (Blue)
520 – 590 nm (Green)
630 – 685 nm (Red)
690 – 730 nm (Red Edge)
760 – 850 nm (Near IR)


Imagery from the RapidEye constellation can provide geospatial information to the following industries:

Agriculture – The RapidEye constellation is capable of field based, regional or global scale agricultural monitoring on a frequent revisit cycle. The information derived from the imagery can assist farmers in precision farming operations, agricultural insurers in damage assessment and risk management, or governments in food security and environmental compliance monitoring.

Forestry – Satellite-based information is increasingly being used by governments and commercial operators to assess forest status, evaluate management strategies,[10] measure the environmental and economical sustainability of forest operations and monitor illegal logging and deforestation.

Security & Emergency - Fast turnaround of imagery showing current ground conditions following a natural or man-made disaster is essential for crisis management authorities in assessing the situation and helping to better coordinate rescue teams.

Environment – Satellite imagery can provide valuable information to governmental agencies or industries, that monitor the environmental impact of human activities.

Spatial Solutions – RapidEye satellite imagery is used as background imagery for a variety of purposes including mapping, navigation, flight simulation, gaming and as an integral component in geospecific 3D modeling.

Energy & Infrastructure - The RapidEye constellation can monitor pipeline and transmission corridors and identify problems on the ground such as vegetation encroachment, nearby buildings, development of roads or leaks. It can provide land cover and land use classification data to telecommunication firms to assist in planning their antenna network.


  1. ^ "BlackBridge :: Delivering the World". blackbridge.com.
  2. ^ Video of the launch Archived 2011-10-05 at the Wayback Machine provided by Russian space agency Roscosmos
  3. ^ "Satellite Maker Planet Labs Acquires BlackBridge's Geospatial Business+". techcrunch.com.
  4. ^ "A Toast on the 10th Anniversary of the RapidEye Constellation in Orbit". Retrieved 2019-12-10.
  5. ^ https://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/rapideye-1.htm
  6. ^ "SSTL's RapidEye blog, 22 May 2008". Archived from the original on 2009-11-05.
  7. ^ "Jena-Optronik".
  8. ^ RapidEye Imagery Product Specifications (PDF)
  9. ^ Planet Satellite Imagery Products, 4. RapidEye Imagery Products
  10. ^ Son, Nguyen-Thanh; Chen, Chi-Farn; Chen, Cheng-Ru (2017-06-09). "Mapping Mangrove Density from Rapideye Data in Central America". Open Geosciences. 9 (1): 211–220. doi:10.1515/geo-2017-0018. ISSN 2391-5447.

External links[edit]