Space Image

Planet’s Tanager-1 Hyperspectral Satellite Ready for Launch

San Francisco-based Earth observation company Planet is preparing to launch its first hyperspectral satellite, Tanager-1, from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Sun Jun 09 2024Written by Zac Aubert

San Francisco-based Earth observation company Planet is preparing to launch its first hyperspectral satellite, Tanager-1, from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base. The satellite is set to be part of a SpaceX rideshare mission that could launch as early as July, according to a June 6 announcement during the company’s fiscal first-quarter earnings results.

The 30-meter resolution satellite will enhance the company’s optical constellation by collecting data across more than 400 spectral bands.

“We think it’s an exciting area long term but it’s a nascent market,” - Will Marshall, Planet’s Co-founder, CEO, and Chair

The hyperspectral data collected by Tanager-1 will capture phenomena invisible to the human eye, potentially revolutionizing fields such as agriculture and oil and gas.

Planet aims to establish a commercial market for hyperspectral services, traditionally dominated by the defense sector. Tanager-1 is part of Planet’s broader strategy, which includes building and operating two hyperspectral satellites initially targeting a 2023 launch.

Record Revenues and Growing Government Contracts

For fiscal Q1 2024, Planet reported record revenues of $60.4 million, a 15% increase year-over-year, primarily driven by government customers. The U.S. National Reconnaissance Office recently renewed a contract for Planet’s imagery services and data archive. Additionally, Planet completed two substantial pilot programs for the Department of Defense, focusing on artificial intelligence data solutions, with expectations for follow-on pilots.

“These pilots require broad area monitoring, detecting and reporting...and reflect a growing trend towards acquiring focused insights from our global data. We’re also pursuing additional larger pilots with other government agencies and believe our unique daily scan positions us favorably to win. We believe all of these pilots have the potential to convert into very large operational contracts over time.” - Will Marshall, Planet’s Co-founder, CEO, and Chair

In March, Planet secured a $20 million agreement to provide Tanager-1’s services to Carbon Mapper, a nonprofit organization focused on delivering methane and carbon dioxide super-emitter data to decision-makers. However, Ashley Johnson, Planet’s chief financial officer, noted that revenue from this contract is tied to specific milestones and is not expected to be recorded in the next few quarters.

In April, Planet deployed a new software platform to merge Earth-observation datasets with analytics, aiding both government and commercial customers in analyzing, streaming, and distributing imagery insights.

Challenges in the Commercial Market

Despite strong governmental revenues, Planet faces headwinds in the commercial market, particularly in the agricultural sector. Commercial customers contributed 22% of Planet’s total revenue for fiscal Q1 2025, down from 29% the previous quarter. To address this, Marshall highlighted efforts to improve performance through more partner-led services, citing a recent three-year contract with a Brazilian utility company to monitor reservoirs and transmission lines.

Planet reported an $8.4 million loss for Q1 2024 adjusted EBITDA, a significant improvement from a $19.1 million loss the previous year. This marks the fourth consecutive decrease in quarterly adjusted EBITDA loss.

Upcoming Launch and Future Plans

Built in-house, Tanager-1 is set to be Planet’s second next-generation small satellite to launch, following the higher resolution Pelican demonstrator launched in November.

The Falcon 9 rocket carrying Tanager-1 will also deploy 35 optical Earth imaging satellites, known as SuperDoves, to contribute to Planet’s flagship daily global monitoring service, which operates around 200 satellites in low Earth orbit. While SuperDoves are the size of a breadbox, Pelican and Tanager-1 are roughly the size of a mini fridge.

With projected revenue between $59 million and $63 million for the next fiscal quarter and an expected adjusted EBITDA loss of $7 million to $10 million, Planet continues to push towards profitability. The successful launch and operation of Tanager-1 will be a crucial step in achieving this goal and expanding the commercial applications of hyperspectral imaging.