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UK Nanosatellites… Coming Soon To A Sky Near You!

Sun Sep 13 2020

The UKSA & ESA aim to track global shipping movements with this new generation of super satellites

In a joint project between the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency, two nanosatellites with ‘true supercomputing capabilities’ will be launched into orbit later this month in a bid to help track global shipping movements.

 

Whilst the word nano may bring to mind thoughts of microscopic technology, these satellites are the size of shoeboxes (still incredibly small for a satellite… hence the name!), and are part of a set built and tested by a company called Spire Global in Glasgow, with the aid of £6m in funding from the Government.

 

Of the four nanosatellites so far built, the first two will be launched from a Russian Soyuz rocket on the 24th of this month, whilst the second two will launched in an Indian PSLV rocket early November.

 

Spire Global, who specialise in in developing and deploying automatic identification systems aboard ships which enable ground staff to pick up the identity, location, and speed of various ships on the oceans, have said these nanosatellites will use on-board computers and machine learning algorithms to predict shipping movements and estimate vessel arrival time in ports.

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This month we are moving forward by launching a true supercomputer into orbit - 1-2 teraflops! - so that we can analyse data right in orbit, using smart algorithms and machine learning.

We see these parallel supercomputing scalable devices as being extremely important for the next phase of Earth observation. Just one of our small satellites can collect over a terabyte of data per day, which would be prohibitive to download. It has to be analysed in orbit, so that true insight can be delivered to customers directly and in a timely fashion.

Peter Platzer – CEO, Spire Global

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The nanosatellites have been developed as part of the European Space Agency’s Pioneer programme which is still joint funded by the UK Space Agency.

Although we won’t technically be part of the EU’s Galileo GPS project post Brexit, the UK, fortunately, is still a member of the European Space Agency as this is separate to the ‘political bloc’. 

This means we can continue to work with the ESA by maintaining access to its technical capabilities and expertise (and vice versa of course) to continue to grow the UK’s satellite telecommunications programme.

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Sun Sep 13 2020

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