If you’ve tried to take a photo while in a moving vehicle, you know how hard it is to capture that image with clarity and sharpness. Now, imagine trying to accomplish that while traveling at 17,500 miles per hour (or 7.8 km per second).

That’s exactly what Maxar Intelligence’s next-generation WorldView Legion satellites will do every day, collecting 30 cm-class imagery of Earth that is sharp and clear from hundreds of kilometers above the planet’s surface. One of the keys to unlocking this capability is the satellite’s new telescope, the imaging instrument that enables the satellite’s core functionality.

Maxar worked with its instrument partner Raytheon to develop a new instrument that offers consistent capability in a smaller, lower power design. Let’s take a closer look.

An aperture cover protects WorldView Legion’s instrument during launch, which is seen here in Maxar Space Systems’ manufacturing facility in California.

New focal plane technology

One of the biggest upgrades to the instrument was the use of new focal plane technology.

A focal plane collects the light from a telescope, turns that into an electrical signal which the instrument processor collects and sends to the ground. All six WorldView Legions will use their focal planes to image light we can see with the human eye and will also collect wavelengths that are too long to see with the naked eye.

The focal plane is a very sensitive part of the instrument. In the new design, we kept the quality we need for precision imagery but used fewer electronics boxes. That made it cheaper to manufacture, and it consumes an order of magnitude lower power. Put simply, the telescope packs more punch.

More insights across the spectrum

WorldView Legion will increase Maxar’s ability to collect 30 cm-class imagery, which is in high demand across many of the missions that Maxar serves. These new satellites will also collect multispectral imagery, enabling Maxar’s customers to gain additional insights.

While the multispectral bands are similar to what our current satellites provide, what’s new on WorldView Legion is that our teams have more control to expose each band individually. These improvements allow customers to more easily determine what objects on the ground are made of using our satellite imagery. For example, we can more easily distinguish what is vegetation versus what is manmade material. These enhancements also minimize sensitivity to water vapor.

After the telescope reflects light onto the focal plane array, the rest of the instrument turns that light into an electrical signal that ultimately forms an image. The on-board instrument processor then takes that image and prepares it for delivery back to Earth.

Redefining Earth observation

This new telescope will enable Maxar to further expand the capabilities of its industry-leading constellation. When all six WorldView Legion satellites are operational on orbit, Maxar will be able to collect more than 6 million sq km of imagery per day and revisit the most populated areas of the globe up to 15 times per day. This combined capability of high-resolution imagery at varied times throughout the day provides operational flexibility to our customers to meet their mission objectives.

Advanced geospatial insights start with the highest resolution imagery

WorldView Legion ushers in a new era of geospatial insights and an improved telescope is required for collecting world-class imagery.

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