UK: A GBP 100 million project has been announced to launch three new British spacecraft to image the surface of the Earth. The satellites, to be orbited in 2013, will be able to see details down to one metre at their best resolution.
It is a commercial venture between the spacecraft manufacturer Surrey Satellite Technology Limited and its data processing subsidiary, DMCii. Now, Nations that do not need their own dedicated satellites will be able to buy time on the spacecraft.
SSTL and DMCii already operate a fleet of 100kg-class imaging satellites, but these are owned by different nations, including the UK, China, Spain and Nigeria.
“We’re not asking government to fund grand space programmes,” said Sir Martin Sweeting, Executive Chairman of SSTL to BBC News. “But there are some technologies and some business cases for which we need the help of government, just to get us over the hump – to get the wheels turning.”
The new spacecraft will be built to a tight timeline, which could see them ready for launch on a single rocket by the end of 2013. Each satellite will be in a larger class than the current DMCii-managed fleet, topping over 300kg. And they will have high resolution cameras (1m/pixel resolution panchromatic; 4m/pixel resolution colour) and will accommodate imagers capable of mapping ultra-wide strips (600km) of the Earth’s surface, albeit at resolutions above 20m.
This broad-swath facility will allow DMCii to continue to use the new satellites for disaster response. Its current fleet plays a leading role in acquiring the urgent maps needed by relief agencies when a natural or man-made calamity strikes a particular corner of the world.The satellites have been particularly active this year in monitoring the impacts of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.