The news in the defense community in 2017 largely revolved around three international conflicts: North Korea’s attempts to become a nuclear power, the fight against the Islamic State and attacks in Syria.
The satellite imagery company DigitalGlobe captured events from each of these struggles and released them to selected media outlets for the end of the year. While satellite imagery can feel novel at times, high-resolution imagery has become a critical asset for military and intelligence agencies.
“As the year draws to a close, we reflect on events that shaped our global society in 2017 and will continue to do so for years — if not decades — to come,” Dan Jablonsly, president of DigitalGlobe, said in a release. “We saw tragedies unfold, like the famine in Africa and Yemen, and we saw moments of great progress, like the strategic victories over the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.”
Here’s what the events looked like from orbit:
North Korea’s ICBM factory
Throughout 2017, North Korea launched a series of increasingly capable ballistic missiles and conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test. This image, taken by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite on November 21, shows the factory in Pyongsong where the Hwasong-15 ICBM is believed to have been developed. (satellite image DigitalGlobe)
The liberation of Mosul
In July, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared that Mosul had been liberated from the Islamic State after 9 months of fighting, marking a turning point in the conflict in Iraq. In October, U.S.-backed Syrian militias reclaimed the city of Raqqa, which had been the de facto capital of the Islamic State in Syria for three years. This image, taken by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite on October 9, shows Syrian forces gathered in Raqqa’s iconic Al-Naim square surrounded by the ruins of destroyed buildings. (satellite image DigitalGlobe)
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On April 7, the U.S. military launched 59 Tomahawk missiles that struck a Syrian airbase where a chemical weapons attack is believed to have originated. This image, taken on April 7 by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite, shows damaged aircraft and infrastructure at Al Shayrat airfield. (satellite image DigitalGlobe)