Monday, July 26, 2010

UK Wants Homegrown Remote Sensing Satellite

The new U.K. minister in charge of space, David Willets, says he will study the feasibility of providing Britain with an independent remote sensing capability.

Aviation Week reports, the remote sensing system would likely be patterned after EADS’ Paradigm’s Skynet 5 satellite telecom system, which provides secure communications to British armed forces on a private funding basis, with the defense ministry as anchor tenant. However, a public-private partnership similar to Germany’s TerraSAR-X/Tandem-X system, in which the government funds a portion of the capability directly, also could be considered, Willets says.

The U.K. government so far has funded an experimental optical spacecraft, Topsat, and two small payloads for Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.’s Disaster Monitoring Constellation, but so far, unlike other leading European countries, has no full-fledged operational Earth observation capability of its own.

According to Paul Brooks, Surrey director of business development and sales, which would have a lead role in the remote sensing initiative, the remote sensing system likely would consist of a constellation of small, 1-meter resolution wide-swath optical imaging satellites, with maximum reuse of existing subsystems, suited for the low-cost, rapid-revisit and high-data-capacity requirements of most users.

A synthetic aperture radar capability could be added later for all-weather or maritime surveillance needs. Later this year, SSTL will roll out a breadboard model of a radar, developed with parent company Astrium, that Brooks says will cut SAR costs by an order of magnitude. The partners hope to convince the U.K. government to help fund a demonstration mission to show the feasibility of the concept, which could be available around 2013.


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