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Maxar’s First 2 WorldView Legion Satellites Launch After Years of Delays 

By Rachel Jewett | May 2, 2024

      SpaceX launches the first two WorldView Legion satellites for Maxar on May 2, 2024. Screenshot via X.

      The first two satellites in Maxar’s long-awaited WorldView Legion constellation launched on Thursday afternoon, a significant milestone for the program after years of delays. 

      SpaceX launched the satellites on a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force base in California. The mission lifted off at 11:37 a.m. PT. SpaceX confirmed deployment at 12:29 p.m. PT. 

      Maxar confirmed the satellites deployed their solar arrays and began receiving and sending signals. Maxar Intelligence expects first images from the spacecraft later this spring.

      These satellites are the first two of six planned WorldView Legion satellites. The program is an update to Maxar’s Earth observation (EO) capabilities, and Maxar says they will offer 30 cm resolution imagery, the highest resolution commercially available. 

      When all six satellites are launched, it will triple Maxar Intelligence’s capacity to collect 30 cm-class and multispectral imagery. The full Maxar constellation will consist of 10 electro-optical satellites which the company said will image changing areas on Earth as frequently as every 20 to 30 minutes. The expanded capabilities are expected to support more detailed, up-to-date mapping and 3D technology. 

      Maxar currently has four imagery satellites in orbit — three WorldView satellites and one GeoEye satellite. 

      Maxar Space Systems built the WorldView Legion satellites for Maxar Intelligence. The businesses split into two companies last year. These satellites are the first satellites in the Maxar 500 series — a mid-size spacecraft platform that can be tailored for multiple missions and orbits. Raytheon supplied the optical instrument. 

      “The successful launch of the first two WorldView Legion satellites represents a transformational moment for our business,” said Maxar Intelligence CEO Dan Smoot. “These first-of-a-kind satellites will extend the quality and capability of our industry-leading constellation, tripling our ability to collect 30 cm-class imagery with high revisit rates and at more varied times throughout the day — meaning faster, more actionable insights for our customers. Thank you to all team members across Maxar who have worked tirelessly on this program to get us to this moment.”

      The satellites faced years of hardware and work delays. They were previously targeted to launch as early as mid-2021. Maxar went quiet on the program after the company was acquired by private equity firm Advent International in 2023, until the satellites were shipped to the launch site in March. 

      Maxar supplies Earth imagery to the U.S. government and Department of Defense. The company is on the National Reconnaissance Office’s Electro-Optical Commercial Layer (EOCL) contract that began in 2022. Maxar’s 10-year contract is worth up to $3.24 billion and includes a five-year base contract commitment of $1.5 billion — a contractual commitment of just over $300 million for each of the first five years.