Timely and comprehensive data matter a great deal when it comes to issues that play out over long periods of time and over vast stretches of the globe. Think of deforestation, say, or illegal fishing. That’s why up-to-date satellite imagery could be a game-changer for organizations that focus on those issues. But barriers related to cost and technical expertise have kept such information out of reach for most nonprofits.

Enter Planet Labs, an aerospace start-up based in San Francisco....

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