Minimize Ikonos-2


Ikonos-2 is a commercial high-resolution imaging satellite of GeoEye Inc. of Dulles, VA, (formerly of Space Imaging Inc. of Thornton, CO), providing high-resolution imagery on a commercial basis. With Ikonos-2, a new era of 1 m spatial resolution imagery began for spaceborne instruments in the field of civil Earth observation. The Ikonos project was managed by LMMS (Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space) with HQ in Sunnyvale, CA; the satellite was designed and built by Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems.


Some background on the Ikonos program:

• Initially, CRSS (Commercial Remote Sensing System) was a remote sensing imaging satellite project of Lockheed Martin that started in 1991. In 1994 a new company was formed for this venture, namely Space Imaging Inc. with the following partners: LMMS: (space segment, satellite operations, and tasking of ground segment), Raytheon/E-Systems (Garland TX: communications, image processing and customer service center). Eastman Kodak Co. of Rochester, NY designed and built the digital camera/sensor. The overall objective was to offer commercial high-resolution (1 m GSD panchromatic and 4 m GSD multispectral) imagery with excellent location knowledge in near real-time and offline.

• In Aug. 1995, Space Imaging was awarded a license by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to construct, launch and operate a commercial remote sensing satellite system comprised of two satellites. In 1997 the CRSS satellite was renamed by Space Imaging to “Ikonos-1,” supposedly a variant of the Greek word `eikon' (icon), meaning “image.” Note: Space Imaging acquired EOSAT (a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Hughes Aircraft) in 1995. The new company was subsequently renamed into: Space Imaging EOSAT. Eventually, it became simply: Space Imaging Inc. 1)

• Launch: A launch of Ikonos-1 took place on April 27, 1999 from VAFB aboard an Athena 2 launcher. Unfortunately, the rocket's nose cone failed to separate as planned at 4 minutes, 27 seconds into the flight - resulting in a complete loss of the satellite. With the protective shroud still attached, the rocket's upper stage and satellite did not have enough speed to reach a stable orbit around Earth. The vehicle then reentered the atmosphere over the South Pacific Ocean.

• Launch of Ikonos-2: The spacecraft was launched successfully on Sept. 24, 1999 from VAFB, CA aboard an Athena 2 launcher of Lockheed Martin. Space Imaging began to sell Ikonos-2 imagery on January 1 2000.

• In 2000, Space Imaging was awarded one of the most coveted prizes for technological achievement in the space industry - “The Industry Innovation Award in the Technology Category” - from the Society of Space Professionals International, due to the excellent performance of Ikonos-2.

• As of Sept. 2005, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, the parent companies of Space Imaging, have agreed to sell Space Imaging to OrbImage Inc. of Dulles, VA.

• On January 12, 2006, the commercial imaging company GeoEye was established (merger completed), made up of former Orbimage of Dulles VA, and of Space Imaging of Thornton, CO (Orbimage acquired Space Imaging and gave the merged company the new name of GeoEye). The new company has HQs in Dulles, VA. - Hence, the Ikonos-2 spacecraft is now owned and operated by GeoEye (the company operates in 2008 also the imaging missions OrbView-2 and OrbView-3, the GeoEye-1spacecraft was launched on Sept. 6, 2008). 2)




Ikonos-2 is a 3-axis stabilized spacecraft, using the LM900 satellite bus system (also referred to as Block-1). The LM900 spacecraft design was based on the CRSS imaging bus. The attitude is measured by two star trackers and a sun sensor and controlled by four reaction wheels (actuators); location knowledge is provided by a GPS receiver. The spacecraft provides precision pointing on an ultra-stable highly agile platform. The spacecraft features a body-pointing technique permitting a field of regard (FOR) of ±30º into any direction. This provides excellent observation capabilities. The design life is 7 years; S/C body size=1.83 m x 1.57 m (hexagonal configuration); S/C mass = 817 kg; power = 1.5 kW provided by 3 solar panels.


Figure 1: Illustration of the deployed Ikonos-2 spacecraft (image credit: GeoEye) 3)


Figure 2: Photo at integration of the Ikonos-2 spacecraft at LMMS, Colorado Springs, CO (image credit: NASA)


Figure 3: The Ikonos spacecraft (image credit: Space Imaging Inc.)


Launch: Ikonos-2, (identical to Ikonos-1 and built in parallel to Ikonos-1), was launched successfully on Sept. 24, 1999 from VAFB, CA aboard an Athena 2 launcher of Lockheed Martin. - On Oct. 12, 1999, Space Imaging released the world's first high-resolution commercial satellite image of the Earth - a 1 m resolution black-and-white image of Washington, D.C. (see Figure 13).

RF communications: The downlink of all imaging data is in X-band (8345.968-8346.032 MHz) at a rate of 320 Mbit/s to dedicated ground stations located around the world (on-board data recording capacity is 64 Gbit in solid-state memory). The TT&C function is provided in S-band (2025-2110 MHz, uplink of tasking and command data at 2 kbit/s, downlink of housekeeping data and metadata at 32 kbit/s). 4)

The spacecraft operations of Ikonos-2 is unique among the current commercial imaging satellites in that it allows each international affiliate to operate its own ground station(s). These ground stations are assigned blocks of time on the satellite during which they can directly task Ikonos, and immediately receive the downlinked imagery for which they tasked. In addition to virtually instant data receipt, this allows each affiliate to make the best use of local weather data. However, this capability is only available when the ground station is in contact with Ikonos-2.


Figure 4: Alternate view of the deployed Ikonos-2 spacecraft (image credit: Space Imaging Inc.)

Orbit: Sun-synchronous near-polar circular orbit, altitude = 681-709 km, inclination = 98.1º, period = 98 min, repeat cycle = 14 days (max), revisit cycle = 1-3 days (for observations at 40º latitude or higher). The local equator crossing time is at 10:30 AM on the descending node.



Mission status:

• Ikonos-2 of DigitalGlobe is operating nominally in 2014 in its 15th year on orbit. 5)

EUSI (European Space Imaging) of Munich, Germany (since 2002), is a DigitalGlobe Alliance partner. This gives EUSI more freedom than just a regular distributor, such as being able to set its own license terms and pricing. EUSI is currently (2014) tasking and receiving data from the WorldView-1 and-2 satellites and is discussing re-activating the tasking and receiving station for Ikonos-2. Both are based at DLR Oberpfaffenhofen. EUSI owns the data it receives via its stations. 6)

ESA receives also Ikonos-2 data via its ground stations in a 'Third Party Mission' license agreement with DigitalGlobe. These data are being used to test and demonstrate various aspects for the future services of the Copernicus satellite series.

In April 2010, EUSI started operating EDAF (European Direct Access Facility) for the acquisition of WorldView-1/2 data. In 2013, EDAF is providing imagery of the following satellites: Ikonos-2, Quickbird-2, WorldView-1/2, GeoEye-1, and EROS-B. EDAF is located at DLR, Oberpfaffenhofen and is jointly operated by EUSI and DLR. 7) 8)

• Ikonos-2 is operating nominally in 2013.

Note: DigitalGlobe and GeoEye merged on January 31, 2013 to become one company, DigitalGlobe. Hence, Ikonos-2 is now being operated under the label of DigitalGlobe.

• Ikonos-2 is operating nominally in 2012 (and completed 13 years on orbit on Sept. 24, 2012).


Figure 5: The Great Blue Hole - off the coast of Belize, Caribbean Sea - was observed by Ikonos-2 on Dec. 8 2012 (image credit: GeoEye) 9)

Legend to Figure 5: This IKONOS image (with a spatial resolution of 0.82 m) shows the Great Blue Hole, a near perfect circle off the coast of Belize mainland. It is a submarine sinkhole surrounded by the shallow waters of the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, a small atoll 80 km from the mainland. The hole is over 300 m across and 124 m deep. The Great Blue Hole, which became a World Heritage Site in 1997, is a part of the larger Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a World Heritage Site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).


Figure 6: Image from the Ikonos-2 satellite showing downtown San Francisco, image number: WEB11835-2011, (image credit: GeoEye)

• Ikonos-2 is operating nominally in 2011 (the spacecraft is on-orbit in its 12th year). A mission end is estimated to be at the end of 2011.

- Geolocation accuracy of Ikonos-2: The geolocation accuracy is regularly tested by imaging Big Spring, TX. A painted target and multiple other checkpoints are measured from the image. The difference between the position measured in the image and predicted by the RPC camera model is plotted in Figure 7. The charts show absolute accuracy, as difference from zero, and relative accuracy, as coincidence of multiple target measurements from the same scene. Ikonos calibrations were recently updated to correct a southward drift in calibrations since the last update in 2007. 10)


Figure 7: History of the Ikonos geolocation history (image credit: GeoEye)

- Ikonos-2 radiometric stability: Standard calibration stars have been imaged each year (with the exception of 2010) and used to measure degradation in detector response. IKONOS continues to show excellent stability with < 1% degradation per year and < 3% degradation over its entire life to date, and no failed detectors.


Figure 8: MS detector stability normalized to 2001 data (image credit: GeoEye, Ref. 10)

- Ikonos-2 focus assessment: A yearly focus assessment is performed by imaging the same target multiple times while moving the focus mirror from an out-of-focus position through its ideal focus. The latest “through-focus” assessment in the fall of 2010, resulted in no need for a focus adjustment. Focus adjustments have not been needed since 2006, consistent with an asymptotic leveling-off of telescope growth (Ref. 10).

• On Sept. 24, 2009, the Ikonos-2 spacecraft marked 10 years in orbit. The world's first high-resolution satellite continues to provide imagery of the Earth to commercial and government customers around the world. 11)

• In October 2008, Telespazio (Finmeccanica/Thales) signed an agreement with GeoEye to sell imagery from the GeoEye-1 and the Ikonos-2 satellites in Europe and North Africa. Telespazio is the new European Commercial Regional Affiliate (CRA), with exclusive distribution rights for both GeoEye-1 and Ikonos satellites. The multiyear agreement applies for imagery acquired from January 1, 2009 onwards. 12) 13)


Figure 9: Ikonos-2 image acquired on Nov. 13, 2008 showing the curving sands in central northern Iran’s salt desert, Dasht-e Kavir (image credit: ESA, EUSI)

Legend to Figure 9: This image was featured by ESA on Jan. 20, 2012 in its series “Earth from Space: Golden curves.” This image shows clays and sand soils which have a high surface salt content owing to the concentration of minerals from high summer evaporation. Iran is one of the world’s most important mineral producers. Earth-observing satellites are useful for finding and monitoring natural resources like minerals. 14)

ESA supports Ikonos-2 as a Third Party Mission, which means that the Agency uses its multi-mission European ground infrastructure and expertise to acquire, process and distribute data from the satellite to its wide scientific user community.


Figure 10: This image of Ikonos-2, acquired on April 27, 2008, shows the sandy and rocky terrain of the Sahara desert in western Algeria (image credit: ESA) 15)

• Ikonos-2 is operating nominally in 2008 - and there are no signs of data deterioration or component failure. Ikonos-2 continues to perform almost flawlessly in terms of quantity and quality of imagery that it collects. GeoEye estimates that Ikonos-2 may continue its operational life into the next decade (the analysis on the life expectancy was performed Lockheed Martin Corporation in the fall of 2007). 16)

• The company GeoEye distributes Ikonos-2 imagery under the trade name of CARTERRA (same name as was used by Space Imaging).


Figure 11: Ikonos-2 image of the Rio de Janeiro Port, Brazil taken on April 20, 2002 (image credit: GeoEye) 17)

• The Ikonos-2 spacecraft became operational in December 1999.

• On Oct. 12, 1999, Space Imaging released the world's first high-resolution commercial satellite image of the Earth. The 1 m resolution black-and-white image of Washington, D.C., observed by Ikonos (Figure 13). 18) 19)



Sensor complement: (OSA)

OSA (Optical Sensor Assembly):

OSA was designed and custom-built by Kodak Co. of Rochester, NY (Space Imaging owns the design of OSA). The instrument features a Cassegrain-type telescope with a 70 cm diameter primary mirror, a 10 m focal length (folded optics design). The OTA (Optical Telescope Assembly) captures imagery across a swath of 11-13 km, it uses five mirrors to reflect the imagery to the imaging sensor arrays at the back end of the telescope. Three of the mirrors are powered (curved), and are of TMA (Three Mirror Anastigmatic) design. Note: TMA refers to lenses that are able to form approximately point images of target (object) points. The other two mirrors are flat, and serve to `fold' or bounce the imagery across the width of the telescope.

Pushbroom detector technology (a large focal plane detector array, generation of 6500 lines/s of panchromatic image data) is employed. Simultaneous imaging in panchromatic and multispectral modes is provided. The pixel size on the detector array is 12 µm for the panchromatic (PAN), and 48 µm for the multispectral (MS) detectors.

The MS bands correspond to those of TM on Landsat in the visible range of the spectrum. The instrument light level is governed by a 70 cm aperture and a choice of 10, 13, 18, 24, or 32 TDI (Time Delay Integration) stages for panchromatic (gray-scale) imaging. The detector array offers a cumulative exposure concept for panchromatic imaging. 20)


Figure 12: Schematic view of the OSA telescope system (image credit: Kodak, J. M. Piwowar)21) 22)

On-board electronics provide low-loss data compression of the original 11-bit data using ADPCM (Adaptive Differential Pulse Code Modulation). - The OSA instrument design features lightweight materials and advanced manufacturing techniques. The mass of the primary mirror was reduced by cutting a honeycomb pattern into its core using abrasive waterjet technology, and fusing thin mirror plates to each face.

Optical telescope assembly

Assembly size: 1.524 m x 0.787 m (1 m3 volume)
Assembly mass without the focal plane unit: 109 kg
Focal length = 10 m; focal ratio = f/14.3
Primary mirror aperture diameter: 0.70 m

Imaging detectors & electronics

Focal plane unit, unit size: 25 cm x 23 cm x 23 cm
Detector array: 13,500 pixels cross-track (PAN)
Detector array: 3375 pixels cross-track (MS), pixel size: 48 x 48 µm

Digital processing unit

Unit size: 46 cm x 19 cm x 31 cm
ADPCM data compression, compression rate of 4:25 : 1

Power supply unit

Unit size: 18 cm x 20 cm x 41 cm

Total instrument mass, power

171 kg, 350 W

Table 1: OSA instrument layout

A body-pointing technique with antenna gimbals and reaction wheels is employed for instrument pointing (the entire S/C is pointed into the desired direction), permitting a field of regard of ±30º into any direction. The angular slew rate is sufficient to perform both wide-area monoscopic and same-pass stereo collections. The location knowledge accuracy of the imagery is 2 m horizontal (relative) i.e. with ground control points, and 12 m (absolute), i.e. without the use of ground control points. Smooth scanning is provided with accurate gyros, low disturbance torques (smooth antenna gimbals and reaction wheels), and a rigid high-frequency structure of the satellite.

The S/C may also be rotated about its imaging axis for proper (broadside) detector array orientation. This technique permits, for instance, the full-swath imaging of a particular feature of interest on the Earth's surface, such as a coastline, which traverses under some angle through the in-track direction.





Spectral range PAN

0.45 - 0.90 µm

Off-nadir pointing angle

±30º in any direction

Spectral range MS (µm)

0.45-0.53, (blue)
0.52-0.61, (green)
0.64-0.72, (red)
0.76-0.86, (NIR)

Stereo capability


Spatial resolution

1 m PAN (0.82 m at nadir), 4 m MS (3.2 m at nadir)

Swath width (single image)
Nominal strips

11.3 km x 11.3 km
11 km x 100 km (length)

Pixel quantization

11 bit

Field of regard (FOR)

±350 km at 1 m GSD

Table 2: Some performance parameters of the OSA instrument

The data acquisitions of PAN and MS imagery data are simultaneous and fully co-registered; mono or stereo. 23) 24)

Instrument calibration: The agile pointing capability of Ikonos is being utilized for instrument calibration. Solar, lunar and stellar scenes serve as radiometric instrument calibration sources. The ecliptic portion of the orbit is being used for stellar calibration. Absolute calibration of the Ikonos sensors is performed by comparing the total digital numbers found in the stellar image, to the absolute in-band spectral radiance of several radiometrically characterized stars. The radiometric calibration provides relative and absolute corrections for detector channel responsivity differences. 25) 26)

Since launch, the Ikonos-2 satellite has undergone a series of geometric calibrations. The Ikonos geometric sensor model includes the interior orientation parameters, i.e. the Field Angle Map (FAM), and the elements of the exterior orientation parameter set, namely the interlock angles. The initial values of the interlock angles and the FAM parameters were determined by pre-launch measurements. They were subsequently refined by a series of on-orbit geometric calibrations.

Ground image data processing provides geocoding along with image compensation algorithms [misregistration, image motion, radiometric correction, MTF (modulation transfer function) compensation, etc.]. Space Imaging Inc. introduced a global archive (of digital imagery and services) under the trade name CARTERRA, which in turn is made up of regional archives, operated by regional partners. A great variety of image products and services are provided. Standard products are:

• Radiometrically corrected images

• Geometrically corrected images

• Orthorectified images and mosaics

• Digital terrain model (DTM) data

• Multispectral images


Figure 13: First Ikonos image of Washington D. C. with the Washington Monument (image credit: Space Imaging Inc.)



Kodak Model 1000 Camera System

As of July 1999, Kodak/C&GS (Commercial & Government Systems) is offering a “Model 1000™ camera system” of OSA camera heritage as an off-the-shelf product - at a 30% discount, deliverable within 24 months of order placement. This Model 1000 system design is owned by Kodak, containing some design changes with respect to OSA (reduced telescope aperture and instrument mass to fit onto minisatellites). 27) 28) 29)

The Model 1000 camera system consists of the following elements: OTU (Optical Telescope Unit), FPU (Focal Plane Unit), DPU (Digital Processing Unit), PSU (Power Supply Unit), and CU (Cabling Unit). The total mass of the system is <100 kg.

• The OTU is an all-reflective three mirror anastigmatic design with two flat fold mirrors to decrease package volume (Korsch TMA telescope design). The optical components are made from high quality, low thermal expansion glass substrates. The metering and mounting structures are made from low thermal expansion materials to match the expansion properties of the glass components. OTU has a mass of 45 kg, the power consumption is 15 W.

• The FPU includes the PAN and MS detectors and A/D converters. Timing and command signals are received from the DPU, power is received from the PSU. The mass of FPU is 16 kg, power = 85 W.

• The DPU generates the timing for the sensor electronics via a master clock. DPU accepts S/C commands over a standard 1553 bus and routes the information to the FPU and PSU. The DPU compresses the 11 bit digitized image data to about 2.5 bits/pixel using the Kodak proprietary algorithms of ADPCM (Advanced Differential Pulse Code Modulation). The DPU can format data for interface with an on-board storage unit and data downlink. DPU mass = 14 kg, power = 130 W.

• The PSU filters, regulates and generates the unregulated S/C power to the DPU and PSU. Mass = 8 kg, power 75 W. There is full redundancy.

• The CU provides the cabling between the various electronic boxes. Mass = 5kg, power = 10W.

Spectral range PAN (panchromatic)

0.45 - 0.90 µm

Spectral range MS (multispectral)

0.45-0.52 µm, 0.52-0.60 µm, 0.63-0.69 µm, 0.69-0.90 µm

Spatial resolution (GSD)

0.82 m PAN, 3.2 m MS, orbital altitude of 600 km

Swath width

12.2 km

Design life

5 years

Optical system parameters

Clear aperture of primary mirror

44.8 cm diameter

Effective focal length; Focal ratio (f/number)

8.0 m / f/17.9

FOV along-track, FOV cross-track

0.75º, 1.19º

Panchromatic focal plane detector array
Detector material, array type
Pixel size
Number of cross-track pixels
Line rate
TDI (Time Delay Integration)

Silicon, CCD
12 µm x 12 µm
6500 lines/s
10, 13, 18, 24, 32

Multispectral focal plane detector array
Detector material, array type
Pixel size
Number of cross-track pixels
Line rate
Spectral filters

Silicon, photodiode
48 µm x 48 µm
1625 lines/s
Multi-layer on glass

Imaging performance parameters

MTF @ Nyquist PAN (41.6 lp/mm)

0.09 (camera geometric mean of in- and cross-track)

SNR (80% scene reflectance, 20% background reflectance, 2.66 mW/cm2 sr µm, 30º sun angle), PAN (24 TDI stages)


Data quantization

11 bits

Data compression technique

ADPCM, 2.5 bits/pixel

Table 3: Specification of the Model 1000 camera system


Figure 14: Illustration of Kodak's Model 1000 camera system (image credit: Kodak)

1) Information provided by S. Kilston, formerly of Lockheed Martin, Palo Alto, CA

2) “ORBIMAGE Completes Acquisition of Space Imaging; Changes Brand Name to GeoEye ,” GeoEye, January 12, 2006, URL:


4) W. Martin, “Satellite image collection optimization,” Optical Engineering, Vol. 41, No 9, Sept. 2001, pp.2083-2087

5) /web/guest/missions/3rd-party-missions/current-missions/ikonos-2

6) Information provided by Adrian Zevenbergen, Managing Director of EUSI (European Space Imaging)

7) “European Space Imaging’s optical satellite services help keep the seas safe and clean,” July 11, 2013, URL:

8) Ansgar Kornhoff, “WorldView Alliance -European Access to WorldView-1/2 and QuickBird,” Ground Segment Coordination Body (GSCB) Workshop, 6-7 June 2012, ESA/ESRIN, Frascati, Italy, URL:

9) “Great Blue Hole, World Heritage Site, Off the Coast of Belize,” GeoEye, Dec. 2012, URL:

10) Martin H. Taylor, Gene Dial, “GeoEye’s Imagery Collection and Production Services Current Performance and Future Systems,” 10th Annual JACIE ( Joint Agency Commercial Imagery Evaluation) Workshop, March 29-31, 2011, Boulder CO, USA, URL:

11) Klaus Schmidt, “IKONOS Satellite Marks 10 Years In Operations,” URL:


13) “Ikonos- The first high-resolution commercial mission,” e-GEOS, URL:

14) “Earth from Space: Golden curves,” ESA, January 20, 2012, URL:

15) “Earth from Space: Algerian sands,” ESA 'Image of the week', March 9, 2012, URL:

16) Gene Dial, “GeoEye: Remote Sensing & Production Services,” March 26, 2008, URL:


18) “First Image from the IKONOS Satellite Shows Washington, D.C.,” Oct. 12, 1999, URL:


20) “IKONOS Instrument/Product Description,” GeoEye, 2009, URL:



23) Adrian Zevenbergen, “Ikonos and GeoEye-1,” Ground Segment Coordination Body workshop, Frascati, Italy, June 19-20, 2007, URL:

24) “Ikonos Imagery Products,” URL:

25) Special Ikonos issue: Remote Sensing of Environment (Elsevier Science), Vol. 88, No 1, Nov. 30, 2003, ISSN 0034-4257,

26) H. S. Bowen, “Absolute Radiometric Calibration of the Ikonos Sensor Using Radiometrically Characterized Stellar Sources,” Pecora 15/Land Satellite Information IV Conference, ISPRS Commission I Mid-term Symposium/FIEOS (Future Intelligent Earth Observing Satellites), Nov. 10-14, 2002, Denver, CO

27) Information provided by Michael J. Richardson of Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester, NY

28) “Kodak Introduces 1-Meter-Resolution Remote Sensing Camera In An Off-The-Shelf, Fixed Price Configuration,” Kodak press release of July 19, 1999

29) T. Delaney, “Satellite Imagery in Land Development Applications,” EOM, Oct. 1999, pp. 47-48

The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: ”Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors” (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates.