With the cubesat standard and more and more components being available off the shelf, this should really bring down the price of building a (simple) earth observation platform.

I am curious how low a price we can get for -for instance- a satellite with the performances of the Planet Labs' Dove, eg 3-4m GSD, NADIR looking, 4 bands. I am only talking about the hardware (no software dev, no qualification costs, no launch costs, etc...).

For some reason, I thought I had heard Planet managed to reach crazy low prices, eg in the $10ks, but if I do some "online shopping" for basic components and add the costs, I really can't see how I could spend less than 100-200k on an imaging cubesat, again just for the hardware.

Does anybody have a clue how much an imaging platform like the dove would cost to build?


1 Answer 1


Both your numbers are correct!

You can go to various hardware providers and indeed buy all the pieces for around \$100k-\$200k and get a nice imaging CubeSat (or its hardware at least).

Planet has had the benefit of manufacturing hundreds of these satellites. Thus they get some significant economies of scale. It is also not clear how they may or may not have amortized development costs in the (10ks) number you quote. It is completely feasible that the actual hardware pieces (down at the resistor/IC/metal level) have very low costs plus some additional assembly and testing costs. That's the benefit of a production line!

You as a new entrant, unfortunately, don't have the benefit of a production line. Therefore you either need to purchase from a commercial supplier that has overhead, development costs, etc, or you need to invest in your own development costs. Your cost is therefore much higher.

  • $\begingroup$ if we estimate 50k per CubeSat launch that would mean that the entire constellation would have cost ~10M ? cheap! $\endgroup$
    – lorenzori
    Jun 11, 2021 at 14:47

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