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article imageThe first all-British radar satellite has launched to orbit

By Karen Graham     Sep 16, 2018 in Technology
The first all-British radar satellite has been launched towards an orbit where it will be tasked with monitoring the oceans. Called NovaSAR, it has the ability to take pictures of the surface of the Earth in every kind of weather, day or night.
An Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) launched two satellites — the NovaSAR and ther S1-4 — into orbit this morning at the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) Satish Dhawan spaceport located in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. The launch was a success.
While the NovaSAR spacecraft will be tasked with a number of roles, its designers specifically want to see if it can help monitor suspicious shipping activity, according to the BBC.
The NovaSAR has a dedicated maritime mode designed with an extremely wide swath area of 400 kilometers (248 miles). It will provide direct radar ship detection data simultaneously with AIS (Automatic Identification System) ship-tracking data, allowing for the identity and tracking of seagoing vessels.
Luis Gomes, SSTL’s Chief Technology Officer, during an interview with the BBC, said: “NovaSAR-1 is a technology demonstration mission designed to test the capabilities of a new low-cost S-Band SAR platform. The satellite was designed and manufactured by SSTL, with an S-Band SAR payload developed by Airbus Defence and Space in Portsmouth, U.K. and an Automatic Identification Receiver supplied by Honeywell Aerospace.”
Mr. Gomes also pointed out that having the ability to watch large areas of the ocean is essential. “We all saw with the Malaysian airline crash in the Indian Ocean the difficulty there was in monitoring that vast area. We can do that kind of thing with radar and NovaSAR is good for that,” he told BBC News.
S1-4 will take pictures of China
Along for the ride with NovaSAR was a high-resolution optical satellite, an imager that sees in ordinary light. Called the S1-4, this spacecraft can clearly see objects on the ground as small as 87 centimeters (34.2 inches) across. Both it and NovaSAR were manufactured by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited of Guildford.
The S1-4 is tasked with taking pictures of China for Twenty-First Century Aerospace Technology (21AT). The company, based in Beijing, will use the data in the Asian nation to help with urban planning, working out crop yields, pollution monitoring and doing biodiversity assessments, among many other applications.
The company signed a $35 million seven-year lease for the S1-4 satellite from Guildford, U.K.-based Surrey Satellite Technology. Ltd. The two companies have collaborated since 2011 when Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd agreed to build three new satellites for Twenty-First Century Aerospace Technology Co,
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