Wow! Satellite views International Space Station from only 43 miles away (photo)

a black and white image of the international space station from afar, showing solar panels and modules
The International Space Station, photographed by a HEO Robotics satellite on May 13, 2024. (Image credit: HEO Robotics)

Satellite, meet space station.

HEO Robotics, which monitors the area around Earth and observes orbiting objects with space-based sensors, captured a stunning image of the International Space Station (ISS) using one of its satellites. 

The two objects were moving at 3.7 miles (6 kilometers) a second relative to each other, making the orbital image all the more notable.

"Non-Earth imaging provides the best view of satellites in space," HEO Robotics wrote Tuesday (May 13) on X, formerly Twitter. "We captured this image of the ISS as it passed over the Indian Ocean from a satellite 69.06 km [43 miles] away."

Related: Track the ISS: How and where to see it

The Australian commercial imaging company has already captured some rare looks of orbiting satellites with its own fleet, in a demonstration of high-resolution imagery used to keep customers apprised of space activities.

For example, HEO Robotics obtained images of the European Space Agency's (ESA) ERS-2 Earth observation satellite on Feb. 14, 2024. ERS-2 was on its way back to Earth's atmosphere after 16 years of scientific observations.

ESA made sure that ERS-2 would come down in a safe splashdown zone, performing dozens of deorbiting maneuvers after the mission ended in 2011 to steer it to a responsible demise.

And in 2023, HEO Robotics released a time-lapse series showing how China put together its three-module Tiangong space station.

The video showed the Tianhe core module working alone and receiving Tianzhou cargo vessels and crewed Shenzhou spacecraft. Subsequently, two experiment modules, Wentian and Mengtian, were added, giving Tiangong a "T-shape."

"Using our non-Earth imaging capability, we witnessed a story unfold over an 18-month timeframe. Each stage you see was verified with a photo taken from another satellite in space," the company posted then on X.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon:

  • Rob77
    Just learned HEO is an Australian company - how about that.
    I'm finding more about Australian space programs, companies through than through any Australian media.
    Doesn't surprise me, my daughters in yr 11 and whole time in high school probably had only 3-4 lessons on astronomy and that was it.