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New Better Satellite World Video from SSPI Explores How Satellite Imagery Exposed North Korean Oil Smuggling

(March 23, 2023 – New York City) – Space & Satellite Professionals International (SSPI) today released Bringing Oil Smuggling Out of the Shadows, its newest video in the Better Satellite World campaign. It tells the story of how a British charity, the Royal United Services Institute, used high-resolution satellite images provided by Planet to expose illegal oil shipments to North Korea, making the smuggler’s job more dangerous and costly. Bringing Oil Smuggling Out of the Shadows is made possible by funding from Planet.

Bringing Oil Smuggling Out of the Shadows debuted on March 14 at the 2023 Space & Satellite Hall of Fame Celebration in Washington, DC. You can watch the video on SSPI’s website and on Youtube.

“Every year, earth observation companies are bringing more of our planet into the light,” said executive director Robert Bell, “including things that many would prefer to keep hidden, from illegal activity to acts of terror and war. If sunshine is the best disinfectant, Planet is among the leaders applying it to make a better world.”

Inside the Story
In 2017, North Korea shocked the world by launching tests of two ballistic missiles able to cross the Pacific and strike the U.S. One just missed hitting a commercial passenger flight headed for Tokyo. The UN Security Council responded with a severe penalty: a limit on the amount of fuel and crude oil North Korea could import. But two years later, the country conducted no fewer than 20 missile tests. With illegal oil traders operating in the shadows to supply North Korea, the UN’s attempt to curb the rogue nation had little effect.

A British charity, the Royal United Services Institute, decided to try a different approach. The Institute turned for help to Planet, a leading provider of satellite imagery. The Institute then worked with global security nonprofit C4ADS to review hundreds of images from Planet’s global archive. Using Planet’s high-resolution images, the Institute was able to identify individual ships engaged in oil smuggling activities. News stories followed, bringing attention to the United Nations investigators, and North Korea found it harder and more expensive to smuggle its way to success.

About SSPI
Founded in 1983, Space & Satellite Professionals International ( is on a mission to make the space and satellite industry one of the world’s best at attracting and engaging the talent that powers innovation. The space and satellite business has never seen a time of greater experimentation and disruption than we see today. Investment is the fuel for transformation, but people are the engine. SSPI helps the industry attract, develop and retain the talented people it needs to keep the engine turning. People who connect through high-profile events and gain recognition from prestigious awards. People who rely on SSPI for a broader understanding of the industry as much as for individual networking and career mentoring. From young people seeking a career path to industry veterans with wisdom to share, SSPI connects them all.

Talent, investment and opportunity flow to industries that make a difference. SSPI is the only organization that also promotes the enormous value of space and satellite through dramatic stories of our technologies and companies making a better world. Those stories overturn misconceptions about the industry that hold it back. They inspire our people and attract new ones to the industry. They help justify investment and give new customers a reason to care about our services and products. Through the stories we tell and the people we serve, SSPI inspires the growth of the $1 trillion space economy of the future.

For More Information
Victoria Krisman
Communications Manager
Space & Satellite Professionals International