UK Radar Satellite NovaSAR-1 Launched Successfully - 21/09/2018

The radar imaging satellite NovaSAR-1, carrying an Airbus S-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR), has been successfully launched on a PSLV launcher from India. The spacecraft was built under the leadership of Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, an Airbus subsidiary.

The innovative small satellite will be used to monitor the Earth day and night. SAR instruments can see through clouds to enable uninterrupted imaging of the Earth below, which is key when monitoring changes of features on the ground.

NovaSAR-1 is the first SAR spacecraft to be manufactured entirely in the UK and is a technology demonstration mission designed to test the capabilities of a new low cost S-Band SAR platform. The satellite is owned by SSTL.

The UK Space Agency has invested £21 million in the development of NovaSAR-1 and will benefit from access to data from the spacecraft, significantly boosting the UK’s sovereign Earth observation capabilities and leveraging additional inward investment to the UK by creating highly skilled jobs in the UK space industry, and stimulating the growth of data analysis services.

UK Science Minister Sam Gyimah said “The data from this satellite, backed by a £21 million investment from the Government, will help innovative start-ups develop new apps that could revolutionise the way we live. It’s a great example of how we are working with the space sector through our modern industrial strategy, ensuring we remain at the forefront of pioneering science and exploration.”

NovaSAR-1 Functions

NovaSAR-1 has a dedicated maritime mode designed with a very wide swath area of 400km to enable the monitoring of the marine environment, and will provide direct radar ship detection information simultaneously with AIS ship tracking data to assist with the identification and tracking of sea-going vessels.

In addition to operating in maritime mode, NovaSAR-1 is equipped with a range of imaging modes, including a 6m resolution imaging mode with 20km swath, a 20m resolution mode with 100km swath and a 30m resolution mode with 150km swath. These will serve a wide range of applications. The satellite has been designed to provide a high throughput of data, and can image in a variety of polarisation combinations to add additional information to acquisitions, in the form of ‘colour’.

Mission partners signed up for capacity from NovaSAR-1 include the UK Space Agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia, and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The satellite is in a 583km polar orbit and has a design lifetime of seven years.

Last updated: 28/11/2020