Oil spill monitoring British satellite launched into space

Computer generated image of NovaSAR-1 in orbit. Credit: SSTL
Computer generated image of NovaSAR-1 in orbit. Credit: SSTL

The first all-British radar satellite has been launched towards an orbit where it will be tasked with monitoring the oceans.

The NovaSar satellite, designed and manufactured by a Surrey-based firm, lifted off on a rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India at 5.38pm UK-time on Sunday.

Backed by a £21 million Government investment, the satellite can take images night or day, even through the cover of heavy clouds.

The latter ability makes them ideal for spotting illegal logging in high cloud-covered forests, such as the Amazon.

Its functions will also include monitoring for oil spills and floods, as well as tracking suspicious shipping activity such as smuggling.

NovaSar was designed by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) in Guildford, which was also launching a second satellite.

Graham Turnock, the UK Space Agency’s chief executive, said: “This exciting new satellite, with its powerful imaging radar system and compact design, has been developed and built in the UK, and will provide a host of benefits for applications including the detection of oil spills, flood monitoring and agriculture.”

Science Minister Sam Gyimah said the data from this project will help innovate start-ups, develop apps and “revolutionise the way we live”.