Planet Is The Most Differentiated Space Play We Have Researched In Years, Delivering Daily Whole Earth Data Subscriptions


In 2010 Planet started with one simple, but extremely difficult, goal – it wanted to photograph and index every square inch of land on the Earth and repeat the feat every 24 hours. Planet’s unique daily-earth-scan combined with its one-to-many subscription data model that makes it even more unique.

In a short span of ten years, Planet went from a startup with a seemingly impossible goal to a soon-to-be public company valued at $2.8B, equipped with a unique and defensible technology that is years ahead of its competition. Using a development process that it pioneered, called agile aerospace, Planet has designed and built a fleet of satellites ten times larger than any competitor.

Its shoe-box size satellites routinely image over 300 million square kilometers of Earth’s landmass every 24 hours. During a 24-hour imaging cycle, Planet’s constellation continually orbits the globe capturing images and recording changes in crops, forests, population activities, buildings, roads, and other surface areas of interest to corporations and military alike. 

Planet has archived more than a billion images – all of which have been optimized for machine learning. It also uses artificial intelligence to increase the value of its 600,000 multispectral images captured daily. 

AI is the basis for Planet’s ability to sell meaningful, and actionable subscription insights to customers. To many, Planet’s information is mission-critical data. Its insights allow companies to make sense out of changes happening on the Earth’s surface - changes such as optimizing agricultural practices, monitoring deforestation, tracking urban growth and development, shipping container activities, and much more.

Net-net, we believe Planet has a monopoly on the daily earth scan and it’s the only satellite data play with a one to many subscription data model.

A new generation of satellites

Conceptual rendering of Planet’s next gen Pelican satellite PLANET

Planet has two fleets of orbital satellites, the Dove fleet and the SkySat fleet. Doves have a resolution of 3.7 meters and do the daily imaging. SkySat spacecraft have a higher resolution 50-cm optics and do the pinpoint imaging of special interest areas an average of seven times daily. 

The Dove fleet consists of legacy Dove satellites plus newer SuperDoves launched at the beginning of 2021. SuperDoves have the same resolution but have higher image quality, additional spectral bands, and collect five times more data per day than legacy Doves. SkySat will be replaced with the next generation of high-resolution satellites called Pelican. Planet has yet to release detailed specifications, these satellites with have better resolution and faster imaging than SkySat.

Going public

Planet will become a publicly traded company through a merger with dMY Technology Group, Inc. IV (DMYQ), a special purpose acquisition company. The combined company will retain the Planet name and be listed on NYSE under the ticker symbol “PL.” Going public (de-SPAC) will provide Planet with funds for expansion into additional vertical markets. There are several small companies in the space segment that could add value to Planet.

Planet recently acquired VanderSat, a company that provides insights to customers by analysis of satellite data from NASA, ESA and other sources. VanderSat provides data insights on Earth surface conditions such as soil moisture, temperature, and vegetation status regardless of cloud and atmospheric conditions. Planet is expected to make more acquisitions of small companies like VanderSat that are providing services created on its satellite platform.

Wrap up

Planet is the most differentiated space play we have researched since SpaceX. And, from our analysis, very differentiated from BlackSky, Satellogic, Maxar, and Airbus.

We believe Planet’s data is singular and unique. It allows us to monitor millions of changes occurring on the Earth’s surface as they change. Each change is registered and interpreted by artificial intelligence, then filtered by subscription feeds according to its significance to subscribers. From our research, we believe there is no other company with the same capabilities. Others might try to imitate, but it will take years another company to become fully operational. By then, Planet will likely be even further ahead. Moreover, there is no way to rebuild Planet’s archive of one billion images that represent a five-year surface change history of the Earth. 

Net-net, we believe Planet has a monopoly on the daily earth scan and it’s the only satellite data play with a one to many subscription data model.

From its initial inception, Planet’s goals were centered squarely on the concept of capturing global changes and making them visible, actionable, and accessible to subscribers. Planet will continue to gather, catalog, and measure data, but eventually it will be at scale. At that time, its operations will require hundreds of large AI models to transform mountains of newly gathered data into actionable business intelligence. There is a good chance that all that knowledge and analysis by artificial intelligence will help us better understand as well as manage the Earth better.

If you’d like a deeper dive, please see our research paper (no fee or login required) published by Moor Insights & Strategy principal analyst for space and quantum, Paul Smith-Goodson, here.

NOTE: Moor Insights & Strategy principal analyst for Space and Quantum, Paul Smith-Goodson, co-wrote this column.

Patrick Moorhead

Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.