UK: The UK government initiated an innovative project to fly radar satellites around the earth, with an initial investment of GBP 21 million. The project, being backed by government, has been developed by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) and its parent company, Astrium.
Radar spacecraft can see the planet’s surface in all weathers, day and night. It is hoped that a series of satellites could eventually be launched, enabling any place on earth to be imaged inside 24 hours – a powerful capability. The radar money is part of a GBP 200 million boost for science announced by the Chancellor in the last autumn.
Engineers at the two firms have produced a compact radar platform they believe could win many overseas orders, and are keen to demonstrate its capabilities in space. The new S-band radar satellite is called NovaSar-S (“Sar” stands for synthetic aperture radar). It is a 3m-by-1m spacecraft with a plank-like appearance, weighing just shy of 400kg.
Engineers have found a way to make it considerably smaller than most radar platforms in operation today, and with a price tag that would also be a fraction of that charged for bigger radar satellites. SSTL said it can build, launch and insure a NovaSar-S for a customer for about GBP 45 million.
A NovaSar-S will produce medium-resolution images, meaning details on the ground larger than 6 metre. It would have a number of viewing modes that could enable it to perform a wide range of roles, from flood monitoring and land cover management to disaster mapping and maritime enforcement – notably ship tracking and oil spill detection.