Spaceport America hours before Virgin Galactic flight in a radar image

Wednesday, July 14, 2021: Spaceport America in New Mexico captured in a radar image two hours before the successful launch of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo on Sunday (July 11).

The image was acquired by a satellite operated by San Francisco-based Capella Space, which is developing an innovative constellation of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites that can see through clouds and in the dark. The company released the image on Monday (July 12), one day after the ground-breaking flight that took billionaire and Virgin Galactic owner Richard Branson to the edge of space.

Currently consisting of five satellites, Capella Space’s constellation can image the surface of Earth in all weather conditions and at night, unlike more common optical satellites. While optical imagers rely on natural light reflected off objects, just like traditional photography, SAR sends its own pulses of energy to the imaged area and detects the returning signal. — Tereza Pultarova


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