Mission typeEarth observation
Formerly GeoEye, Space Imaging
COSPAR ID1999-051A Edit this at Wikidata
SATCAT no.25919
Mission durationFinal: 15 years, 6 months, 6 days
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerLockheed Martin Space Systems
Launch mass817 kg (1,800 lb)[1]
Dimensions1.83 × 1.57 m (6.0 × 5.2 ft)[1]
Power1,500 W[1]
Start of mission
Launch date 24 September 1999, 18:22 (1999-09-24UTC18:22) UTC[2]
RocketAthena II, LM-007
Launch siteVandenberg AFB SLC-6
ContractorLockheed Martin
Entered serviceDecember 1999[1]
End of mission
Deactivated31 March 2015 (2015-04-01)[3]
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
RegimeLow Earth
Perigee altitude678 km (421 mi)
Apogee altitude682 km (424 mi)
Period98.4 minutes
Epoch24 September 1999, 18:22 UTC[2]
Main telescope
Diameter70 cm (28 in)[1]
Focal length10 m (394 in)[1]
Focal ratiof/14.3
WavelengthsPanchromatic: 450–900 nm[1]
Multispectral: 450–860 nm[1]
ResolutionPanchromatic: 0.82–1 m[1]
     (32–39 in)
Multispectral: 3.28–4 m[1]
     (129–157 in)

IKONOS was a commercial Earth observation satellite, and was the first to collect publicly available high-resolution imagery at 1- and 4-meter resolution. It collected multispectral (MS) and panchromatic (PAN) imagery. The capability to observe Earth via space-based telescope has been called "one of the most significant developments in the history of the space age", and IKONOS brought imagery rivaling that of military spy satellites to the commercial market.[4][5] IKONOS imagery began being sold on 1 January 2000, and the spacecraft was retired in 2015.


Cover of the New York Times on October 13, 1999; top left corner shows "A photograph of Washington, D.C., is the first high-resolution image of Earth taken by a commercial satellite to be made public."
Cover of the New York Times on October 13, 1999; top left corner shows "A photograph of Washington, D.C., is the first high-resolution image of Earth taken by a commercial satellite to be made public."

IKONOS originated under the Lockheed Corporation as the Commercial Remote Sensing System (CRSS) satellite. In April 1994 Lockheed was granted one of the first licenses from the U.S. Department of Commerce for commercial satellite high-resolution imagery.[6] On 25 October 1995 partner company Space Imaging received a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to transmit telemetry from the satellite in the eight-gigahertz Earth Exploration Satellite Services band.[7] Prior to launch, Space Imaging changed the name of the satellite system to IKONOS. The name comes from the Greek word eikōn, for "image".[8]

Two satellites were originally planned for operation. IKONOS-1 was launched on 27 April 1999 at 18:22 UTC from Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex 6,[9][10] but Athena II rocket's payload fairing did not separate due to an electrical malfunction, resulting in the satellite failing to reach orbit and falling into the atmosphere over the South Pacific Ocean.[11]

IKONOS-2 was built in parallel with and as an identical twin to IKONOS-1. Completion of its construction was projected for July 1999 with a January 2000 launch.[12] In reaction to the loss of IKONOS-1, the spacecraft was renamed IKONOS[12][13] and its processing accelerated, resulting in a launch on 24 September 1999 at 18:22 UTC, also from Vandenberg aboard an Athena II rocket.[2] The company began selling IKONOS imagery on the market on 1 January 2000.[1][14]

In December 2000, IKONOS received the "Best of What's New" Grant Award in Aviation & Space from Popular Science magazine.[15] The acquisition of Space Imaging and its assets by Orbimage was announced in September 2005 and finalized in January 2006.[16][17] The merged company was renamed GeoEye,[17] which was itself acquired by DigitalGlobe in January 2013.[18]

DigitalGlobe operated IKONOS until its retirement on 31 March 2015.[3] During its lifetime, IKONOS produced 597,802 public images, covering more than 400 million km2 (154 million sq mi) of area.[19]



IKONOS was a three-axis stabilized spacecraft designed by Lockheed Martin Space Systems. The design later became known as the LM-900 satellite bus and was optimized to carry remote sensing payloads.[20] Four reaction wheels stabilized the spacecraft's altitude, which was measured by two star trackers and a sun sensor. Orbital position information was provided by a GPS receiver. The spacecraft body was a hexagonal design of 1.83 by 1.57 meters (6.0 by 5.2 ft) and 817 kilograms (1,800 lb), with 1.5 kilowatts of power provided by three solar panels. Its design life was seven years. IKONOS operated in a Sun-synchronous, near-polar, circular orbit at approximately 680 km (423 mi).[1]

Optical Sensor Assembly

IKONOS's primary instrument was the Optical Sensor Assembly (OSA), designed and built by Kodak. It had a primary mirror aperture of 70 cm (28 in), and a folded optical focal length of 10 m (394 in) using 5 mirrors. The main mirror featured a honeycomb design to reduce mass.[21] The detectors at the focal plane included a panchromatic sensor with 13,500 pixels cross-track, and four multispectral sensors (blue, green, red, and near-infrared) each with 3,375 pixels along-track. Its nadir image swath was 11.3 km (7 mi).[22] Total instrument mass was 171 kg (377 lb) and it consumed 350 watts.[21]

Spatial and spectral resolutions[8][23]
Band 0.8-meter panchromatic 4-meter multispectral
1-meter pan-sharpened
Pan 450-900 nm  
1 (Blue)   445-516 nm
2 (Green)   506-595 nm
3 (Red)   632-698 nm
4 (Near IR)   757-853 nm

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Ikonos-2". eoPortal. European Space Agency. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Launch/Orbital information for Ikonos 2". National Space Science Data Center. NASA. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  3. ^ a b "DigitalGlobe's IKONOS Satellite Retired After 15 Years of On-Orbit Operation" (Press release). Lockheed Martin. 14 May 2015.
  4. ^ Broad, William J. (27 April 1999). "Private Spy In Space To Rival Military's (Published 1999)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 6 November 2020.
  5. ^ Broad, William J. (13 October 1999). "Giant Leap for Private Industry: Spies in Space". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 January 2010.
  6. ^ "Company News: Lockheed Wins License for Satellite Sensing System". The New York Times. 26 April 1994. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  7. ^ Turner, Linda (25 October 1995). "Space Imaging granted FCC license for private remote sensing satellite system" (Press release). Business Wire. Retrieved 3 December 2016 – via TheFreeLibrary.com.
  8. ^ a b "Imagery Sources". GeoEye. Archived from the original on 28 October 2010.
  9. ^ Mecham, Michael (3 May 1999). "Faulty Athena Shroud Ruins Ikonos 1 Launch". Aviation Week & Space Technology. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  10. ^ Brender, Mark; Lidov, Linda (27 April 1999). "Lockheed Martin Athena Launch of Ikonos Satellite Experienced an Anomaly" (Press release). Space Imaging. Retrieved 3 December 2016 – via FAS.org.
  11. ^ Harland, David M.; Lorenz, Ralph D. (2006) [2005]. Space Systems Failures: Disasters and Rescues of Satellites, Rocket and Space Probes. Springer Science+Business Media. p. 107. ISBN 0-387-21519-0.
  12. ^ a b "DA 01-765: Application for Modification of Space Station Authorization". Federal Communications Commission. 28 March 2001. Archived from the original on 3 December 2016.
  13. ^ Bossler, John D., ed. (2010). Manual of Geospatial Science and Technology (2nd ed.). CRC Press. p. 335. ISBN 978-1-4200-8734-5.
  14. ^ Livingston, Steven (January 2015). "Commercial Remote Sensing Satellites and the Regulation of Violence in Areas of Limited Statehood" (PDF). CGCS Occasional Paper Series on ICTs, Statebuilding, and Peacebuilding in Africa. University of Pennsylvania (5). Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 October 2019.
  15. ^ "Spy Sat for the Rest of Us". Popular Science. 257 (6): 44. December 2000.
  16. ^ Frederick, Missy (19 September 2005). "Orbimage-Space Imaging Merger Expected To Stabilize the Industry". SpaceNews. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  17. ^ a b Vuong, Andy (12 January 2006). "Thornton's Space Imaging Acquired". The Denver Post. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  18. ^ Ferster, Warren (31 January 2013). "DigitalGlobe Closes GeoEye Acquisition". SpaceNews. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  19. ^ Kramer, Miriam (28 May 2015). "The life and death of Ikonos, a pioneering commercial satellite". Mashable. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  20. ^ Krebs, Gunter D. (11 November 2016). "Lockheed Martin: LM-900". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  21. ^ a b Kramer, Herbert J. (2002). Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors (4th ed.). Springer-Verlag. pp. 286–287. Bibcode:2002oees.book.....K. ISBN 3-540-42388-5 – via Google Books.
  22. ^ "IKONOS Satellite Sensor". Satellite Imaging Corporation. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  23. ^ Qian, Shen-En, ed. (2016). Optical Payloads for Space Missions. John Wiley & Sons. p. 824. ISBN 978-1-118-94514-8 – via Google Books.