The previously accepted limits to image resolution attainable with synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) technology have been broken by Finnish company ICEYE with its latest launch of microsatellites in July 2019. The new Spotlight imaging capability builds on ICEYE’s first small SAR satellite launch in January 2018. With Spotlight imaging, the satellite focuses its energy on a smaller area for a longer time, resulting in more data received from the same location. This in turn can be processed into more detailed imagery to support higher resolution mapping efforts.

The under-100kg (220 pounds) SAR satellites serve commercial and government sectors. The added capabilities of ICEYE’s SAR satellites are especially valuable for applications such as emergency response, finance, civil government, and maritime security. ICEYE currently operates four commercial SAR satellites, with more launches planned over the next two years to achieve an 18-satellite constellation.

American companies Capella Space and Trident Space are also developing high-resolution SAR satellites, along with British companies Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd and Oxford Space Systems, and Japanese company Synspective.