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EarthNow fleshes out planetary video plan

EarthNow satellite
An artist’s conception shows one of EarthNow’s satellites in orbit, equipped with four telescopic cameras. (EarthNow Illustration)

BELLEVUE, Wash. — A satellite startup called EarthNow is laying out the details of its plan to blanket our planet with high-resolution, real-time, live-video coverage from a 500-satellite constellation in orbit, with support from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Europe’s Airbus, Japan’s SoftBank Group and other high-profile backers.

The revelations come a year after Bellevue-based EarthNow raised $6.6 million in a seed investment round from those financial backers.

“The purpose of the seed phase was to make absolutely sure that we could do this,” founder and CEO Russell Hannigan told GeekWire.

If a follow-up Series A round comes together the way Hannigan and his team hope in the next couple of months, the venture could launch its first experimental “pathfinder” satellites by the end of 2020, setting the stage for a wave of operational satellites in 2022.

Hannigan discussed EarthNow’s roadmap last week during an interview at Intellectual Ventures’ Bellevue headquarters, which currently serves as the spin-out’s base of operations. He’ll be discussing the details with other satellite industry executives this week at the SmallSat Symposium in San Jose, Calif.

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Why space engineers move to (and leave) Seattle

New Shepard capsule
Engineers work on New Shepard’s crew capsule at Blue Origin’s Kent factory. (Credit: Blue Origin)

A new employment study indicates that roughly 3,000 people are directly employed by Washington state’s space industry, and roughly half of them are at Blue Origin, Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ space venture.

Most of Blue Origin’s 1,500 employees work at the company’s headquarters and production facility in Kent, Wash. So Erika Wagner, Blue Origin’s payload sales director, has a good grasp on what draw space-savvy engineers to the Seattle area.

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EarthNow satellite video venture draws big backers

Airbus satellite
A graphic shows the preliminary design for satellites that Airbus is manufacturing for OneWeb. EarthNow plans to use a modified version of the same platform to beam real-time video down to Earth. (C3 Creative Code and Content GmbH Photo via Airbus)

The latest spinout from Intellectual Ventures, EarthNow, says it’s coming out of stealth mode with backing from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and other high-profile investors.

Bellevue, Wash.-based EarthNow aims to operate a fleet of small satellites that will send continuous real-time video views of our planet from Earth orbit. The satellites will be modified versions of the spacecraft that Airbus is building for the OneWeb broadband internet satellite constellation.

In addition to Gates, EarthNow’s investors include Airbus, OneWeb founder and executive chairman Greg Wyler and Japan’s SoftBank Group, the startup said today in a news release. The amount of funding was undisclosed, but for what it’s worth, SoftBank made a billion-dollar investment in OneWeb back in 2016.

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