The Japanese Ministry of Defence (MoD) will use Planet’s Dove Earth imaging nanosatellites to collect intelligence on Japanese national security threats, supplementing the high-resolution satellite imagery it receives from the Japanese government’s Intelligence Gathering Satellites (IGS).
According to an article in The Mainichi, the MoD will begin collecting images from Planet’s privately-operated fleet of miniature Earth observation satellites in June, diversifying its satellite-based intelligence gathering.
While government intelligence or large commercial satellites take superior-quality images, the Japanese MoD will be able to task more than 100 nanosatellites simultaneously, enabling image collection over a much broader area and at lower costs.
The ministry conducted a test run of Planet’s Dove satellites last year to confirm the fleet’s usefulness for Japanese intelligence gathering requirements.
Japan’s MoD and Planet signed a contract worth about U.S.$1.06 million last week. Under this contract, the ministry’s Defence Intelligence Headquarters — responsible for collecting and analyzing foreign military intelligence — will be able to access and download images from the company’s database starting in June.
Planet’s Dove satellites are 10 centimeters tall, 10 centimeters wide, and 30 centimeters long, and weigh only around 5 kilograms each. 120 to 150 of these satellites are operational at any given time, and they can cover even Earth’s most remote locations more than once daily.