How the new British radar satellites will detect international shipping crimes

How the new British radar satellites will detect international shipping crimes
Credit: Government of India, 2018

NovaSAR-1 and SSTL S1-4, the two all-British radar satellites, have been launched and will serve a variety of purposes including tracking international shipping crimes.

The all-British radar satellites, which have been launched to orbit on an Indian rocket, can capture images of the surface of the Earth in any weather and at any time. The satellites were designed and produced by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL).

Sir Martin Sweeting, the executive chairman of SSTL, said: “I am pleased to confirm that successful contact has been made with both satellites and they are in good health. I would like to thank the Indian Space Research Organisation and Antrix for a successful launch which achieves our long-held ambition to deliver low cost SAR remote sensing capabilities and services to our global customers and enhances our Earth observation capabilities with a sub one metre optical mission.”

How can the satellites detect shipping crimes?

They will be used for several purposes, but its main usage is intended to be monitoring international shipping crimes.

Under international law, large ships must broadcast Automatic Identification System (AIS) radio signals, which are positional transmissions. Ships which disable these transmissions or interfere with them often do so because they are fishing illegally or smuggling. The British radar satellite NovaSAR is equipped with a receiver to pick up these signals, so any ships which are found to disable or interfere with the transmissions can be captured on the NovaSAR’s pictures and reported to the authorities.

Will the British radar satellites encourage further innovation?

Due to their ability to capture images under all weather and light conditions, the satellites can also be used to detect oil spills, monitor floods and forestry, assist with disaster response, and in crop assessment.

Science Minister Sam Gyimah commented: “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.”

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