NO­VASAR: UK radar satel­lite to track il­le­gal ship­ping ac­tiv­ity

Iran Daily - - Science & Technology -

The first all-bri­tish radar satel­lite is set to go into or­bit on an In­dian rocket.

Called NO­VASAR, it has the abil­ity to take pic­tures of the sur­face of the Earth in ev­ery kind of weather, day or night, BBC re­ported.

The space­craft will as­sume a num­ber of roles but its de­sign­ers specif­i­cally want to see if it can help mon­i­tor sus­pi­cious ship­ping ac­tiv­ity.

Lift-off from the Satish Dhawan Space Cen­ter in Sri­harikota is at 17:37 BST.

NO­VASAR will be joined on its rocket by a high-res­o­lu­tion op­ti­cal satel­lite — that is, an im­ager that sees in or­di­nary light.

Known as S1-4, this space­craft will dis­cern ob­jects on the ground as small as 87cm across. Both it and NO­VASAR were man­u­fac­tured by Surrey Satel­lite Tech­nol­ogy Lim­ited of Guild­ford.

UK en­gi­neers have long had ex­per­tise in space radar but their tech­nol­ogy has pre­vi­ously al­ways gone on broader mis­sions, such as those for the Euro­pean Space Agency. NO­VASAR, which has the dis­tinc­tive shape of a cheese-grater, is uniquely Bri­tish, how­ever.

Its radar in­stru­ment was de­vel­oped for SSTL by Air­bus in Portsmouth. The mis­sion in­cor­po­rates low-cost, minia­tur­ized com­po­nents and will aim to demon­strate a more af­ford­able ap­proach to radar imag­ing.

It will op­er­ate in a num­ber of modes for ap­pli­ca­tions that in­clude the de­tec­tion of oil spills, flood and forestry mon­i­tor­ing, dis­as­ter re­sponse, and crop assess­ment.

But perhaps its most in­ter­est­ing role will be in mar­itime ob­ser­va­tion.

The satel­lite is equipped with a re­ceiver that can pick up Au­to­matic Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Sys­tem (AIS) ra­dio sig­nals. These are the po­si­tional trans­mis­sions that large ships are obliged to broad­cast un­der in­ter­na­tional law.

Ves­sels that tam­per with or dis­able these mes­sages very of­ten are en­gaged in smug­gling or il­le­gal fish­ing ac­tiv­ity. If such ships ap­pear in No­vasar’s pic­tures, they will be re­ported to the au­thor­i­ties.

Luis Gomes, the chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer at SSTL, said, “We are very in­ter­ested in this mar­itime mode, which is a 400km-plus swath mode.

“It is im­por­tant to be able to mon­i­tor large ar­eas of the ocean — some­thing we don’t do at the mo­ment. 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 said.

The NO­VASAR project was ini­ti­ated in­side SSTL in 2008/9. Back then the idea of a radar satel­lite that mea­sured three me­ters by one me­ter was re­garded as some­thing of a break­through be­cause, up that point, such space­craft had been big, power-hun­gry beasts that cost a lot of money.

It is a lit­tle un­for­tu­nate there­fore that the pro­gram got de­layed be­cause in the mean­time oth­ers have also man­aged to pack­age radar sys­tems into small vol­umes. The Fin­nish start-up Ic­eye has a plat­form fly­ing now that is the size of a suit­case. And an Amer­i­can com­pany called Capella is promis­ing a radar satel­lite that is not much big­ger than a shoe­box.

But radar ex­pert Martin Co­hen from Air­bus is un­per­turbed by these de­vel­op­ments.

“NO­VASAR is still a step change, cer­tainly for Air­bus in terms of what you can do for a par­tic­u­lar amount of money. But while we’ve been wait­ing for a launch, we haven’t stood still,” he said. “We’ve done lots of work on the next gen­er­a­tion.

“NO­VASAR is just the first in a fam­ily of in­stru­ments that will of­fer dif­fer­ent ca­pa­bil­i­ties, such as finer res­o­lu­tions and other pa­ram­e­ters; and we will be putting those ca­pa­bil­i­ties on smaller space­craft than NO­VASAR.”

The satel­lite, as presently con­fig­ured, will op­er­ate in the S-band (3.2 gi­ga­hertz), giv­ing a best res­o­lu­tion of 6m with a swath width of 15-20km. Fu­ture vari­ants will go to the higher-fre­quency X-band and sense fea­tures on the ground as small as a me­ter across, and less.

The In­dian Po­lar Satel­lite Launch Ve­hi­cle (PSLV) aims to put NO­VASAR and S1-4 into an or­bit that is 580km above the Earth.

SI-4 will be tak­ing pic­tures of China for Twenty First Cen­tury Aero­space Tech­nol­ogy (21AT). This 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.

SSTL/AIR­BUS/ISRO S1-4 and NO­VASAR pic­tured just be­fore be­ing en­closed at the top of their In­dian rocket.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Iran

© PressReader. All rights reserved.