||Nightsat is a concept for a satellite system capable of global observation of the location, form and density of lighted infrastructure and development within human settlements. Nightsat’s repeat cycle should be sufficient to produce an annual cloud-free composite of surface lighting to enable detection of growth rates. Airborne and satellite imagery have been used to define the range of spatial, spectral, and detection limit options for a future Nightsat mission. Our conclusion is that Nightsat should collect data from a near-synchronous orbit in the early evening with 50–100 m spatial resolution and have detection limits of 2.5E−8 W cm−2 sr−1 μm−1 or better. Multispectral low-light imaging data would be better than panchromatic data by providing valuable information on the type or character of lighting, a potentially stronger predictor of variables such as ambient population density and economic activity.