System Characterization Report on the BlackSky Global Multispectral Sensor

Open-File Report 2021-1030-O
By: , and 


Executive Summary

This report addresses system characterization of the BlackSky Global satellites and is part of a series of system characterization reports produced and delivered by the U.S. Geological Survey Earth Resources Observation and Science Cal/Val Center of Excellence. These reports present and detail the methodology and procedures for characterization; present technical and operational information about the specific sensing system being evaluated; and provide a summary of test measurements, data retention practices, data analysis results, and conclusions.

The BlackSky Global satellites are three-band multispectral imagers (red, green, and blue multispectral bands plus a panchromatic band) with a 0.8- to 0.9-meter (m) pixel ground sample distance for the assessed satellites. BlackSky Global satellites 9 and 12–17 were launched in March and December 2021, respectively, into a Sun-synchronous orbit of 430–450 kilometers with an inclination of 42–53 degrees and a swath width of 6 kilometers at nadir. Each Global satellite has an expected lifetime of about 3 years. More information on the BlackSky Global satellites is available in the “Land Remote Sensing Satellites Online Compendium” ( and from BlackSky at

The Earth Resources Observation and Science Cal/Val Center of Excellence system characterization team completed data analyses to characterize the geometric (interior and exterior) and spatial performances. Results of these analyses indicate that the assessed BlackSky Global satellites have an interior geometric performance in the range of −0.011 m (−0.012 pixel) to 0.007 m (0.008 pixel) in easting and −0.018 m (−0.020 pixel) to 0.012 m (0.013 pixel) in northing in band-to-band registration; an exterior geometric performance using ground control points of 8.0-m circular error (95-percent certainty) for orthorectified products and 10.7- to 17.4-m circular error (95-percent certainty) for nonorthorectified products, depending on the geolocation metadata used; and a spatial performance in the range of 1.70 to 2.43 pixels for full width at half maximum, with a modulation transfer function at a Nyquist frequency in the range of 0.032 to 0.084.

Suggested Citation

Vrabel, J.C., Anderson, C., Bresnahan, P.C., Christopherson, J.B., Clauson, J., Kim, M., Ryan, R.E., and Sampath, A., 2023, System characterization report on the BlackSky Global multispectral sensor (ver. 1.1, April 2024), chap. O of Ramaseri Chandra, S.N., comp., System characterization of Earth observation sensors: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2021–1030, 23 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • System Description
  • Procedures
  • Measurements
  • Analysis
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • Selected References
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title System characterization report on the BlackSky Global multispectral sensor
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2021-1030
Chapter O
DOI 10.3133/ofr20211030O
Edition Version 1.0: June 6, 2023; Version 1.1: April 29, 2024
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
Description Report: v, 23 p., Version History
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details