satellite orbiting

UK-built satellites to form backbone of global IoT device network

Three UK-built satellites are set to launch on a SpaceX rocket tomorrow that are designed to monitor and tackle climate change as well as track endangered wildlife.

The three firms behind the satellites received nearly £15m from the UK Space Agency, through the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Pioneer Partnership Programme, to help complete their projects.

The Oxford-based Lacuna Space has developed a satellite designed to support IoT devices by “reaching every corner on Earth”.

Lacuna sensors, which fit in the palm of your hand and can run for years on a single battery charge, can be used to monitor the environment, track wildlife and help farmers by providing data on the health of cattle and crops and for water and soil management.

Two of the satellites, built by Spire, in Glasgow, will develop optical intersatellite links (ISL) which will help to send large amounts of data from space down to Earth. This will enable constellations of satellites to become integrated networks in space, capable of delivering high volumes of data at speed to anywhere in the world, including remote and rural areas, disaster areas and at sea.

This enhanced data and better predictive analytics will improve our understanding of the environment and the impact we have on it, the UK Space Agency said.

Science minister Amanda Solloway said: “As we get ready to host the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, in Glasgow later this year, the UK is leading the way in exploiting space to tackle climate change, developing satellites that enable our world class scientists to monitor the environment in remarkable detail.

“As well as supporting out climate ambitions, these British-built satellites will provide exciting innovation in remote sensing and tracking, kickstarting industry to offer new services that will help to improve all our lives.”

Elodie Viau, director of telecommunications at ESA, said: “ESA is proud to enable small and medium-sized enterprises in Europe to become space mission providers and enter the space industry through programmes such as Pioneer. 

“It provides innovators and entrepreneurs with the means to access space through cost-effective processes, creating jobs and boosting prosperity, and supporting the success of the European and Canadian space industry in the highly competitive global telecommunications market.”

The third satellite is built by In-Space Missions, based in Hampshire. It will include the demonstration payload for Lacuna Space’s satellite IoT service. This first version is a high gain, wideband software defined radio which will enable a number of different applications including tracking ship radars to creating heat maps of 4G mobile usage.

In May, scientists from the University of Bristol said that earth observation satellites are essential tools for tracking the progress of climate change in real time.

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