To borrow a phrase, 2021 passed “in the blink of an eye,” and Maxar’s eyes in the skies observed many of the world’s significant events this year. The Maxar News Bureau makes high-resolution satellite images and analyses available to trusted media organizations around the world as complements to good journalism. Below is a look at some of the most noteworthy global events of the past 12 months.


Joe Biden inaugurated as United States President

The U.S. celebrated the presidential inauguration with fireworks over the National Mall. These Maxar WorldView-3 images are among the first nighttime images that the company released publicly in 2021.

Joe Biden became the 46th President of the United States on January 20, 2021. Although cloudy skies mostly obscured the overhead view of the inauguration’s daytime activities, Maxar’s WorldView-3 satellite collected dramatic imagery that night, revealing the fireworks display that capped the celebrations.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers win Super Bowl LV

This GeoEye-1 image from February 7, 2021, shows the team logos in the end zones of Raymond James Stadium.

Quarterback Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory in his first season with the team. Maxar’s GeoEye-1 satellite collected a game day image of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida—the site of Super Bowl LV, between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Governments set up vaccination sites

COVID-19 vaccines became readily available in the United States at the beginning of 2021. In Los Angeles, Dodger Stadium became a vaccine site with a line of cars snaking around the stadium’s parking lot, as seen in this Maxar WorldView-2 satellite image from February 6, 2021.

Myanmar people protest for democracy

People in Yangon, Myanmar, protested widely in February 2021 against the military taking control of the country. The GeoEye-1 images above show new street murals on February 22, 2021, painted by demonstrators: “Free our leaders” and “We need democracy.”

Snow covers significant portion of the U.S.

A massive winter storm covered 73% of the U.S. in snow and knocked out power to millions of homes. The above Maxar WeatherDesk graphic shows snow depth across the country.


SpaceX tests Starship rocket

SpaceX continued its Starship flight tests in 2021 from Boca Chica, Texas, with the goal of eventually using the rocket to get to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Maxar’s WorldView-3 satellite imaged the Starship 10 rocket on March 3, 2021, about seven hours before it launched, returned to Earth and exploded shortly after landing.

Ammunition explosion destroys part of Bata, Equatorial Guinea

A series of explosions on March 7, 2021, at a military installation’s armory in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, killed more than 100 people, injured hundreds more and caused extensive damage to the base and surrounding area. The slider above shows the base before the explosion and two days after the blast. The after image uses color infrared to clearly delineate the burned areas (appearing in shades of black and grey) from the healthy vegetation (appearing in shades of red and pink).

Ever Given container ship gets stuck in Suez Canal

Maxar’s satellites collected images documenting the whole process of freeing the Ever Given from the banks of the Suez Canal in Egypt.

The bow of a 1,300-foot container ship named the Ever Given got lodged in the side of the Suez Canal on March 23, 2021. The world watched, fascinated as construction crews, tugboats and dredging ships worked to free the 400 million pound ship, which blocked canal traffic for six days.


Parade practice in Pyongyang, North Korea

On April 8, 2021, WorldView-2 collected the above image of Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, where people are seen practicing marching in formation. The message spells “Push through at all costs.” It’s likely they were practicing for evening festivities to celebrate the 109th birthday of former leader Kim Il Sung on April 15.


Israel and Gaza tensions result in violence

As a result of changes to U.S. regulations, these were among the first Maxar satellite images of Israel and Gaza that were published at 40 cm resolution.

For 11 days in May, Israel and the Hamas militant group in Gaza traded airstrikes and missiles, destroying civilian homes, places of business and infrastructure. In Gaza, more than 200 people died and more than 1,600 other people were injured. At least 12 people died in Israel. Israel described the campaign as an effort to destroy Hamas’ infrastructure. A fragile cease-fire was negotiated between the two groups to stop the destruction.

Darwin’s Arch collapses

Maxar’s GeoEye-1 collected two images of Darwin’s Arch in the Galapagos Islands. In the three days between the images, the arch collapsed.

A famous rock formation in the Galapagos Islands collapsed on May 17, 2021, and Ecuadorean officials attributed it to natural erosion. Darwin’s Arch had become a popular attraction for divers because of the diverse wildlife.


SpaceX launches Maxar-built SXM-8 satellite for SiriusXM

Maxar’s WorldView-3 satellite collected a high off-nadir image of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on June 5, 2021. The rocket blasted off from SLC 40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida, the following day, sending the Maxar-built SXM-8 satellite into orbit for SiriusXM. Also captured in the image is an airplane flying past the launch pad.

Container ship spills plastic pellets in the ocean after fire

This GeoEye-1 color infrared image from May 22, 2021, shows the MV Xpress Pearl on fire off the coast of Sri Lanka.

The ship carried plastic pellets, called nurdles, which were carried by ocean currents away from the wreck. This WorldView-1 image shows nurdles on a beach in Negombo, Sri Lanka, on June 1, 2021.

The MV Xpress Pearl container ship caught fire at the end of May 2021 and sank off the coast of Sri Lanka in June 2021. The ship held containers of plastics, chemicals and dangerous goods, which are negatively affecting the surrounding marine environment.


Dixie-Jumbo wildfire burns 46,000+ acres in Idaho

Lightning started the Dixie and Jumbo fires in Idaho on July 5 and July 6, 2021, respectively. The fires burned more than 46,000 acres. In the above image from July 14, 2021, Maxar’s WorldView-3 shortwave infrared (SWIR) sensor penetrates smoke to see the active fire in Dixie, Idaho.

Summer Olympics take place in Tokyo, Japan

After a year’s delay due to the pandemic, the 2020 Summer Olympic Games were held in Tokyo, Japan, with 11,417 athletes participating in 339 events. In the GeoEye-1 image above, a volleyball game can be seen in Shiokaze Park arena on July 24, 2021.

Historic flooding in Germany

Use the slider to see the damage caused by the Ahr River flooding in Schuld, Germany.

The most severe flooding in decades hit Western Europe in mid-July 2021, killing more than 120 people. Germany experienced devastating flooding, with bridges washed away, buildings and homes destroyed, and mud and debris covering streets.


Chaos unfolds at Kabul airport as U.S. and coalition forces leave Afghanistan

Maxar satellites monitored the situation at the main airport in Kabul.

The Taliban overtook Kabul on August 15, 2021, and U.S. military and coalition forces conducted a complicated evacuation operation at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

Hurricane Ida slams into U.S. Gulf Coast

These Maxar images were among the first from space to demonstrate the extent of the damage caused by Hurricane Ida.

Hurricane Ida slammed into Louisiana and Mississippi as a Category 4 hurricane on August 29, 2021. The storm caused significant damage to homes and buildings, knocked out power to more than a million customers in Louisiana, and at one point even made the Mississippi River flow backward. The Maxar constellation collected new imagery on August 31, 2021, of Louisiana’s coastline.


Cumbre Vieja volcano erupts on La Palma, Spain

Maxar’s WorldView-3 collected spectacular images at night of the Cumbre Vieja volcano. This image is a composite image, created by blending a daytime and nighttime image, showing how the lava weaves through the town to reach the ocean.

Maxar’s WorldView-3 collected spectacular images at night of the Cumbre Vieja volcano. This image shows lava shooting into the sky.

The Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma, Spain, began erupting on September 19, 2021. The lava flowed down a mountainside, through villages and farmland, until it reached the ocean. Its eruption is ongoing more than 70 days later.

Yellowstone sets new attendance record

For the first time in its history, Yellowstone National Park surpassed 4 million visitors by September in 2021. The National Park Service reported that 882,078 people visited the park in September, bumping the total year-to-date visitors to 4,472,982, which is a 32% increase from the same period in 2020 and a 17% increase from 2019.


Atlanta Braves win World Series

Hours ahead of the World Series Game 5 at Truist Park in Atlanta, Georgia, Maxar’s WorldView-3 collected a nighttime image of the stadium. Although the Houston Astros won that game, the Atlanta Braves clinched the series to take home the Commissioner’s Trophy on November 2, 2021.


Chinese build mock U.S. ships in desert for target practice

Maxar’s WorldView-3 collected these images over the Taklamakan Desert, China, at the end of October and beginning of November 2021.

The U.S. Naval Institute revealed on November 7, 2021, that the Chinese have constructed a sophisticated weapons test range in western China. Maxar’s satellite images of the Taklamakan Desert provide evidence of the simulated U.S. Navy carrier strike group vessels being used as targets.

Cargo ships stack up during global supply chain hiccups

The global shutdown caused by the pandemic caught up with the supply chain in November. At one point, a record 111 ships were waiting off the California coast to unload their cargo. The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles handle 40% of sea freight traffic entering the U.S. The above WorldView-3 image with high-definition processing shows the Port of Long Beach full of shipping containers on November 11, 2021.

Russia deploys troops near Ukrainian border

This gallery shows some of the images of Russia’s troop buildup along its border with Ukraine throughout 2021.

Throughout the year, Russia has been moving tactical battle groups, ground forces and equipment to several areas within western Russia near its Ukrainian border. These military activities are raising concern that the forces could be pre-positioned for use against Ukraine in any upcoming military offensive.


Mount Semeru erupts in Indonesia

This slider shows Curah Roboan, Indonesia, before and after Mount Semeru erupted and covered the village in ash.

On December 4, 2021, Mount Semeru volcano erupted on Java Island, Indonesia. The volcano spewed ash and lava, blanketing nearby villages and causing people to flee in panic. The eruption killed at least 34 people, destroyed buildings and severed a bridge connecting two areas in the nearby district of Lumajang.

Tornadoes tear through the U.S.

These Maxar satellite images show the destruction caused by tornadoes as they hit multiple U.S. states.

Tornadoes tore through eight states in the Midwest and South regions of the U.S. overnight December 10-11, 2021, killing at least 100 people and causing significant damage to buildings and infrastructure. President Joe Biden declared a major federal disaster in Kentucky, allowing additional federal assistance for recovery efforts.

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