A Suitcase-Size Satellite’s Big Image of Frozen Earth Below

January 27, 2018

About two weeks ago, a satellite called Iceye-X1 hitched a ride into orbit aboard an Indian rocket. It’s about the size of a suitcase, and has already sent its first picture, constructed out of microwave radar reflections, back to Earth.

“I personally love this image,” said Rafal Modrzewski, the chief executive of Iceye, a Finnish start-up that built and operates the satellite, referring to a scene from the Noatak National Preserve in Alaska. “It’s full of snow, but it’s so much more complex than you think at first.”

The swath of the park visible in the first image is 1.2 gigabytes of data that encompasses an area about 50 miles long by 25 miles wide. It was made using a technology known as synthetic aperture radar, or SAR.

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