Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) signed an agreement in Adelaide today at the International Astronautical Congress to provide Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) a 10% share of the tasking and data acquisition capabilities from NovaSAR-S, a first-in-class small radar satellite due for launch later this year.
NovaSAR-S is a technology demonstration mission designed to complement much larger, complex radar satellites with a smaller, lighter and more cost effective platform that delivers Earth observation Synthetic Aperture Radar imagery day and night, and through cloud cover. Managing the energy use on board the small SAR platform has been made possible by using a new, highly efficient S-band solid-state amplifier technology and flying an innovative S-band SAR payload developed by Airbus UK in Portsmouth
Speaking at the IAC in Adelaide, Luis Gomes, SSTL’s Commercial Director said “We are delighted to be here in Adelaide for the IAC, and to see the Australian government’s “Big Country, Big Sky, Big Ideas” slogan underpinned by today’s announcement of our partnership with CSIRO on the NovaSAR-S mission. We anticipate that CSIRO will greatly enhance Australia’s sovereign Earth observation capability with the addition of SAR data, particularly for this continent which has a tropical climate and a large coastline territory.”
Gomes also confirmed that further data shares on the mission are available, commenting “With the launch of the satellite due later this year, we have a number of discussions open with potential partners on the mission but we also welcome new partners looking to take a data and tasking share in NovaSAR-S.”
The agreement gives CSIRO tasking priorities and the ability to access the raw data directly from the satellite, and a license to use and share the data with other Australian companies and organisations over an initial 7 year period.
Dr Dave Williams, Executive Director of Digital, National Facilities and Collections at CSIRO, said the deal represented a significant investment in Australia’s space capability.
“The aim is to manage the The NovaSAR satellite as a natural extension of the significant role CSIRO already plays in managing a range of National Facilities, on behalf of the Australian community of scientists and for the benefit of the nation,” Dr Williams said.
“Because we’ll be able to direct the satellite’s activity, it provides significant opportunities to support a wide range of existing research, further develop Australia’s earth observation data analytics expertise, and create new opportunities in the field of remote sensing.”
These new opportunities hold potential for building stronger research partnerships between the government, universities and the wider space industry in Australia.
The ability to image through cloud and at night using SAR technology provides additional and enhanced Earth observation applications and opportunities in disaster monitoring, agricultural monitoring and forestry assessment which require imaging on a regular basis regardless of cloud cover.
NovaSAR-S is also equipped with a wide >400km swath maritime mode for ship detection across oceans and flies an Automatic Identification System to provide additional data for shipping, coastguard and customs authorities.
The UK Government provided £21 million to assist in the development and launch of NovaSAR-S and will also benefit from access to the SAR data, significantly boosting the UK’s sovereign Earth Observation capabilities for applications such as ship detection and identification, oil spill detection, forestry monitoring and disaster monitoring, particularly flood detection and assessment.