UK space radar project launched

UK space radar project launched
The government has awarded a contract to British firm Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) to launch an innovative radar Earth observation satellite based on the company's NovaSAR platform.

The project was kicked off yesterday by Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts with an initial investment of £21million.

Once up and running, the NovaSAR constellation is expected to yield a 50:1 return of £1billion over the coming decade, creating more than 300 highly skilled jobs in the UK space industry.

Sir Martin Sweeting, executive chairman of SSTL, commented: "This support by the government is absolutely critical in bringing this world leading technology to market.

"Experience with the Disaster Monitoring Constellation has shown that modest government investment can catalyse an enormous multiplier for high value manufacturers and the UK space industry to grow our exports and share in an international space market worth more than £178bn per year."

SSTL's NovaSAR is a 3 x 1m spacecraft weighing just 400kg. The company says it is considerably smaller and cheaper than most radar platforms in operation today, and can be built, launched and insured for about £45m.

In addition to securing export orders, it is hoped that the constellation will bring about a significant return on investment from sales of data. The government says it will utilise the technology to monitor drug trafficking, piracy and identifying illegal logging and deforestation.

Laura Hopperton

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