British-built satellite launched to monitor the oceans

An ocean monitoring satellite that was entirely built in the UK was launched from an Indian space centre over the weekend.

The NovaSar satellite, designed and manufactured by a Surrey-based firm, lifted off on a rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India at 5.38pm UK-time on Sunday.

The satellite, created by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), provides powerful tools for monitoring the Earth from space due to its ability to see through clouds and image the Earth night and day.

NovaSAR-1 was designed and manufactured by SSTL, with an S-Band SAR (synthetic aperture radar) payload developed by Airbus Defence and Space in Portsmouth and an Automatic Identification Receiver supplied by Honeywell Aerospace.

SSTL said a constellation of three NovaSAR satellites could image any point on the globe every day, regardless of local time or weather.

Its abilities make it ideal for spotting, for example, illegal logging in high cloud-covered forests such as in the Amazon region.

NovaSar undergoing testing by the SSTL team

Its functions will also include monitoring for oil spills and floods, as well as tracking suspicious shipping activity such as smuggling.

It has a dedicated maritime mode designed with a very wide swath area of 400km to enable the monitoring of the marine environment.

This will provide direct radar ship-detection information simultaneously with AIS ship-tracking data to assist with the identification and tracking of sea-going vessels.

The project was backed by a £21m government investment and follows efforts to boost the UK’s space sector with public funds.

Last month the government said it would commit £92m to kickstart efforts for the UK to make its own satellite navigation system in the wake of its exit from the European Galileo project. 

Dr Graham Turnock, the UK Space Agency’s chief executive, said: “This exciting new satellite, with its powerful imaging radar system and compact design, has been developed and built in the UK, and will provide a host of benefits for applications including the detection of oil spills, flood monitoring and agriculture.”

Science Minister Sam Gyimah said the data from this project will help innovate start-ups, develop apps and “revolutionise the way we live.

“It’s a great example of how we are working with the space sector through our modern Industrial Strategy, ensuring we remain at the forefront of pioneering science and exploration.”

NovaSar was designed in Guildford, and SSTL also sent a second satellite up to space as part of the launch.

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