It is a well-known fact that the recent explosion of space startup companies can be attributed to the dramatic decline in launch and satellite production costs over the past decade. However, Array Labs, a Silicon Valley-based startup founded just two years ago, is also utilizing other technological advancements in its endeavor to create a 3D map of Earth.
The chief executive officer of Array, Andrew Peterson, explained that these include computation advances, such as in advanced graphics processors (GPUs), and radar software development. Aerospace engineer Peterson, who previously worked for General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Moog’s space and defense division, stated that the revolution in scientific computing has created new opportunities.
Array intends to create a three-dimensional map of the earth by flying clusters of radar satellites in low Earth orbit to simultaneously image the same location. The company intends to create a complete, high-resolution 3D digital chronicle of the world by capturing images of the same location from multiple angles. It functions similarly to synthetic aperture radar, but the exact technique is known as “multistatic radar” due to the cooperative operation of multiple radar satellites across spatial distance.
The company claims that the 3D data will have such a high resolution that it can be utilized by fleets of autonomous vehicles, augmented reality devices, insurance analytics, and national security applications.
This is not the first time a group has attempted to generate global 3D imagery using space-based radar. Peterson stated that in 2003, the Air Force Research Lab planned to implement a program called TechSat 21 that would do just that. However, it was hampered by computational limitations. For instance, the TechSat 21 team had to figure out how to obtain sufficient bandwidth to store all the data the radar will produce.
Array’s Meteoric Rise: From Startup Launch to Rapid Growth with Notable Investors and Accelerators
In 2021, Peterson founded the enterprise. Engineer and first angel investor in Array, Brian McClendon supervised the development of Google Earth. To scale even further, Array joined Seraphim Space Camp in the autumn of 2021 and YCombinator the following year. In October 2012, it closed a $5 million venture round led by Seraphim Space and Agya Ventures, with participation from Republic Capital, Liquid 2 Ventures, Rebel Fund, and Y Combinator cofounder Trevor Blackwell.
The aim is to launch clusters of satellites, each containing several dozen satellites; the ultimate objective is to launch and operate ten to twenty clusters. Peterson stated that a single cluster will be able to capture 5% of the world’s surface, which represents 95% of the world’s population, every two weeks. Next year, Array will launch its first test satellite on a SpaceX ride-share mission, the first in a succession of test satellites designed to incrementally derisk various aspects of the company’s technology.
Prior to its arrival, Array conducts as many tests as feasible on the ground. Prior to the initial launch, the 10-person team established an indoor radio frequency (RF) test range to validate its image formation algorithms and software. The company intends to publish a blog post on the system, detailing the creation of a CAD rendering of the SAR testbed, the delivery of the apparatus to their Silicon Valley parking lot, and the production of the first clear radar image.
“Building a little bit in public is really, really important,” Peterson said. “We’re doing something really, really new and we would love to talk to as many of these companies, as many people at these companies, as we can.”