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Element 84, Inc. - Cataloging over 11 million synthetic aperture radar images with Ursa Space

Ursa Space

Cataloging over 11 million synthetic aperture radar images with Ursa Space

Founded in 2014, Ursa Space Systems (Ursa) is a US-based satellite intelligence company that provides business and government decision-makers access to on-demand analytic solutions. Through their radar satellite network and data fusion expertise, Ursa Space detects real-time changes and analyses patterns in the physical world to understand what’s happening at a deeper level. 

In recent years, Ursa experienced a steep increase in demand for SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) analysis products that can capture images at night and through clouds. To keep up with the anticipated increasing volume of data ordered by their customers, the Ursa team needed support to scale their infrastructure. 

With over a decade of experience supporting Earth observation processing, cataloging, and distribution for various key satellite providers — from small startups to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) — Ursa knew Element 84 was the perfect team for the job.

Building a solution that genuinely solves problems

“For Ursa, the goal was to build up their own team,” noted Andrew Pawloski, Cloud Practice Lead at Element 84. “So we embedded ourselves within the company to help design the custom solutions in-house and meet the unique scaling needs for the customer.” 

Subsequently, the engineers began by expanding Ursa’s existing system. “Essentially, the solution augmented the existing processing and cataloging capabilities of Ursa’s system and provided rapid prototypes, which visualized Ursa’s data in domain-specific contexts,” explained Andrew. 

Next, the engineers worked alongside Ursa’s development and content expert teams to design and implement additional features within the system. In particular, the teams were focused on driving the scalability and algorithmic development of the solution, rather than maintaining a storage cluster. 

AWS (Amazon Web Services) served as the infrastructure backbone of the solution, so Ursa worked with Element 84 and an AWS Pro Serve team to leverage the power of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and highly scalable data stores like Amazon S3 to enable corpus level processing and distribution to Ursa’s customers. 

However, those capabilities were not a standalone solution. A common challenge with geospatial pipelines is the confusing UX (user experience) for internal users. As such, Element 84 met with stakeholders at Ursa to understand the typical obstacles they faced when using specific technologies. From there, Element 84 provided feedback in Ursa’s Jira ticket system to identify and solve issues as they arose, greatly improving the internal UX.

When it comes to building a solution that genuinely solves problems, the internal user experience is just as important as the customer user experience.

Andrew Pawloski, 
Cloud Practice Lead at Element 84

Detecting real-time changes in the physical world

Through working with Element 84, Ursa Space was able to improve the Ursa Space Platform: a SAR imagery catalog browser. With an impressive SAR imagery/data catalog count of over 11 million, the application enables clients to easily source imagery from around the globe, cutting through Earth’s cloud coverage of around 67% at any time. 

Following the success of the project, Ursa Space has expanded its virtual constellation to include a dramatically larger data footprint, which enabled the team to grow Ursa’s market reach into new verticals. With Ursa’s SAR analysis products, organizations worldwide can carry out critical activities — from fighting illegal fishing and detecting oil spills to protecting global security and responding to disasters. 

Want to learn more about how Element 84 can help you?

At Element 84, we pride ourselves on being the opposite of a black box solution. When you opt for our custom-built solutions, you benefit from the expertise of a team that has spent over a decade supporting Earth observation processing, cataloging, and distribution for satellite providers — ranging from small start-ups to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). 

Plus, we’ll support and provide you with the tools you need to get your own team off the ground. And you can do it without the hassle of dealing with vendor lock-in. Interested in learning more? Schedule a call today and discover the possibilities.

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Cloud Architecture & Data Scaling, Software Engineering & Analytics