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Question:

In order to better understand the wider market need and uses for Very Low Earth Orbit (VLEO)-enabling technologies, I'd like to ask about future trends in Earth observation imagery and global communications, particularly:

  1. Is there a trend, or any current effort to push optical image resolution even lower by reducing altitude, or have the cost, location repeat cadence (time between one image/pas and the next for a given location), and diversity in electromagnetic spectrum now become the primary driving factors?
  2. Are there new or different application areas than optical imaging where there are opportunities to exploit VLEO over LEO?

Background:

I am a researcher at The University of Manchester where we’ve been exploring The Benefits of Very Low Earth Orbit for Earth Observation Missions. We believe that that spacecraft operating here could be smaller, lighter, and cheaper whilst maintaining or improving performance in comparison to those that currently operate at higher LEO altitudes. As part of the DISCOVERER project, we have been working on developing technologies to enable sustained operations at reduced orbital altitudes, principally materials that reduce the drag experienced in the rarefied flow in very low Earth orbits (VLEO) and new flow sensors that can assist atmosphere-breathing electric propulsion systems and aerodynamic control methods.

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    $\begingroup$ I think this is a good question but it seems to me to be the canonical case of an opinion-based question, which the rules don't like. I'm not going to vote to close it but I suspect it will get closed for that reason. There must be forums which support questions like this but I don't know what they are. $\endgroup$
    – user21103
    Mar 19, 2021 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ Appreciated and understandable - maybe we could class it as professional perspective! Yes, I've been looking for some other places to post this (e.g. reddit), but any further suggestions would also be welcome! $\endgroup$
    – nhcrisp
    Mar 19, 2021 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Space Exploration! Your work sounds fascinating. Your first two points really should be separated into two different questions. Instead of asking whether a change in technology will help in the future, you could rephrase the question as whether the technology already has changed in that direction; this will avoid making the question opinion-based as tfb pointed out. I don't see a way to ask the third bullet point without it being opinion-based. So the next step is to edit this question to address the first bullet point only, non-opinion-based. $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Mar 19, 2021 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ btw I've just asked What technologies enable or at least help satellite operation in Very Low Earth Orbit (VLEO)? you may be interested in contributing an answer there. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 20, 2021 at 10:24

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