We Have Liftoff! BlackSky Announces the Successful Launch of Pathfinder-1

10.24.2016 | Danielle Zarrella

Last month, BlackSky, a business belonging to our client Spaceflight Industries, successfully launched and confirmed signal acquisition of its first satellite, Pathfinder-1.

BlackSky is an earth-imaging company with a geospatial intelligence platform that Spaceflight Industries conceived in 2013 and officially began operations in July 2015. Since then, the company has focused on the construction of its first satellite, Pathfinder-1, and development of a platform that allows customers to observe, analyze and act on critical global events and data in near-real time. Pathfinder-1 and Pathfinder-2, which is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base later this year, are demonstration satellites that are vital to informing the development of the remaining satellites in the company’s planned 60-satellite constellation.

The successful launch of Pathfinder-1 was a significant milestone for the company, being that it was the first step to operating satellites that will gather images and data to access through the platform. Given the importance of this accomplishment, normally we would have opted to release the news under embargo to select journalists before releasing it on the wire. However, working in the space industry presents unique circumstances to consider when executing launch announcements.

Reaching space is still a very complicated process and there are several possible outcomes for satellite launch and operations. First, the launch could be entirely unsuccessful. Second, the launch could be successful, but there might be operational issues with the satellite once it is in space. Lastly, the entire mission could be a complete success, which in this case, it was (though we never doubted that!). Due to the potential outcomes, we opted to hold the news until BlackSky could confirm a successful mission.

The key to a successful announcement with a variety of outcomes is preparation. We focused on creating a plan for each possible scenario and developed all of our materials in advance of the launch date. This included statements for the two scenarios that were not complete successes. If either the launch or the signal acquisition had been unsuccessful, our plan was to acknowledge the setback and the company’s next step through a statement issued via social media.

Our approach to announcing a completely successful mission involved placing a press release on the wire and sending the release to a comprehensive press list consisting of relevant business, technology and space industry journalists. We are pleased to say that we received confirmation from the BlackSky team that the satellite was operational and were able to proceed with distribution of the news.

There was significant interest and excitement around the news resulting in 17 pieces of coverage including local television and radio segments. Here’s a list of the coverage:

  1. Satnews, Spaceflight’s Pathfinder-1 Is Accomplishing Just That…,” Sept. 27, 2016
  2. Sat PR News, “PSLV DELIVERED TO ORBIT 8 SATELLITES DURING ITS 37TH FLIGHT !,” Sept. 27, 2016
  3. KING 5, “Seattle-based BlackSky to sell affordable, real time space photos,” Sept. 27, 2016 (6:30 p.m. show)
  4. KING 5, “Seattle-based BlackSky to sell affordable, real time space photos,” Sept. 27, 2016 (5:30 p.m. show)
  5. KOMO Radio, **Segment not being posted online, however, we are allowed to share the audio (attached) via social media with attribution to KOMO**
  6. Spaceflight Now, India declares success on PSLV’s most complex mission,” Sept. 26, 2016
  7. SpaceNews, India’s PSLV launches 8 satellites in a record fifth mission this year,” Sept.26, 2016
  8. Parabolic Arc, Spaceflight Industries Successfully Launches BlackSky Pathfinder Satellite,” Sept. 26, 2016
  9. Behind the Black, “Pathfinder 1 communications confirmed,” Sept. 26, 2016
  10. Spaceflight Insider,INDIA’S PSLV ROCKET SENDS EIGHT SATELLITES INTO TWO DIFFERENT ORBITS,” Sept. 26, 2016
  11. Seattle Times, Spaceflight Industries says first satellite put in orbit,” Sept. 26, 2016
  12. Jargan Josh, “ISRO launched 8 satellites in two different Orbits,” Sept. 26, 2016
  13. One India, “ISRO’s complex, historic launch: From students’ to weather satellites,” Sept.26, 2016
  14. The Wire, Seven Reasons ISRO’s Latest PSLV Launch Was Significant,” Sept. 26, 2016
  15. Geekwire, “India’s PSLV rocket sends BlackSky Global’s first Earth-watching Pathfinder satellite into orbit,” Sept. 25, 2016
  16. NASASpaceflight.com, “ISRO PSLV conducts SCATSAT-1 launch,” Sept. 25, 2016
  17. PC Tablet, “ISRO’s PSLV rocket set to launch eight satellites on Monday: Things you shouldn’t miss,” Sept. 24, 2016

We are extremely excited for the BlackSky team and look forward to their many successes to come!


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