Britain’s first radar satellite has captured stunning images of Sydney Harbour and the Egyptian Pyramids.
The spacecraft can take pictures of a wide range of terrain on the Earth’s surface in all weather conditions including heavy cloud or at night.
Most Earth observation spacecraft need daylight and cloud-free skies to gather their data.
NovaSAR has diverse applications such as ocean surveillance, oil spill detection, flood and forestry monitoring, disaster response and crop assessment.
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An image of the famous bridge and opera house at Sydney Harbour at night captured in the debut images by the first all-British radar satellite. NovaSAR was developed jointly by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited of Guildford and Airbus in Portsmouth.
NovaSAR captured boats moored at Church Point Harbour in Australia. The spacecraft can take pictures of the Earth’s surface in all weather conditions including heavy cloud, day or night
Backed by a £21 million Government investment, it was developed by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) of Guildford in collaboration with Airbus in Portsmouth.
The pictures show Sydney Harbour at night, capturing the famous bridge and opera house as well as boats moored nearby.
An image of Cairo shows the River Nile flowing from Upper Egypt towards Beni Suef.
The non-irrigated desert areas are clear and distinguishable, while the Great Pyramids of Giza also stand out.
Science and education minister Sam Gyimah visited SSTL on Friday to tour the satellite assembly and operations facilities and view the new images from NovaSAR.
‘Yet again we can see UK research and innovation that is truly out of this world,’ he said.
‘This ”eye in the sky” can capture an image a dozen times wider than the Strait of Dover and the data it provides can help crack problems from illegal shipping to alerting us to damaging pollution that needs to be countered.
Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) in Guildford also launched a second satellite. NovaSar’s sister satellite is known as S1-4 and is a high a high-resolution optical satellite.
The spacecraft picks up a range of different terrains. Here, an image of Cairo shows the River Nile flowing from Upper Egypt towards Beni Suef, with cultivation along the river and the non-irrigated desert areas distinguishable, while the Great Pyramids of Giza also stand out
‘ SSTL’s director of earth observation Andrew Cawthorne said the team is ‘delighted’ with the first images, adding the craft will continue to gather test images before it starts delivering services to partners in the near future.
‘Over the coming weeks our spacecraft operators will continue to test the capabilities of the spacecraft as we task the satellite to image locations around the world,’ he said.
A number of global agencies will partner with the NovaSAR, including the UK Space Agency, Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, and the Indian Space Research Organisation.
NovaSar (pictured) looks a little like a cheese grater and was designed and manufactured by a Surrey-based firm and was launched on a rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India yesterday
The radar satellite technology is a powerful tool for monitoring the Earth from space because it can see through clouds and monitor at any time of day or night.
This enables the craft to spot illegal logging in high cloud-covered forests, such as the Amazon, and track suspicious shipping activity such as smuggling.
A constellation of three NovaSAR satellites could image any point on the globe, every day, regardless of local time or weather, SSTL said.
The Red and Bent Pyramids in Dahshur wasa also captured by the satellite. The spacecraft has diverse applications such as ocean surveillance, oil spill detection, flood and forestry monitoring, disaster response and crop assessment
HOW DOES NOVASAR SEE THROUGH CLOUDS?
The satellite uses acutely sensitive radar to detect any objects in its observable range.
Radar, which stands for Radio detection and ranging, works by sending out a wave which is then detected when it bounces back.
The time between the initial burst and when the wave returns is used to create an image that reveals how far away an object is and how big it is.
This is much the same way that sight works, light is bounced off an object and into the eye, where it is detected and processed.
Radar can be used to see through different materials, in darkness, fog and a variety of different weather conditions.
NovaSar will operate at around 3.2 gigahertz.
It will be able to provide a resolution of around 6 metres (18 feet) and will be able to cover an area of around 15 – 20 km (9 – 12 miles).