Sunday, September 30, 2012

Low Cost NovaSAR Constellation at IAC 2012


More details surrounding the British based Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) plans to build a three satellite constellation of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) micro-sats, are expected to come out in a public presentation at the 63rd annual International Astronautical Congress (IAC), being held in Naples, Italy from October 1st - 5th.

An artists impression of NovaSAR in flight.

As outlined in the November 10th, 2011 post "SAR Satellite Designers Living in Interesting Times," the program, now known as the NovaSAR Constellation, is expected to be able to compete on features and functionality with the Canadian government SAR based RADARSAT Constellation (RCM), but would cost only a third of the price.

Public reports (including the May 27th, 2012 Commercial Space post "Federal Government Says "Yippee Kai Yay" to MDA") have indicated that the pricing for the RCM project has almost doubled to over $1 billion CDN since the project was announced in 2006.

Graphic from the SSTL marketing literature on the NovaSAR Constellation.

The SSTL website article titled "SSTL showcases innovation at the IAC," provides details on the NovaSAR Constellation presentation, which is expected to discuss:
... the adaptation of new amplifier technologies and collaboration with Astrium (EADS Astrium, the giant European aerospace multinational which owns SSTL) to offer Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) capabilities within the cost envelope of an optical remote sensing mission. This very practical technological leap will make radar data, which is currently prohibitively expensive for many civilian applications, more readily accessible for forest monitoring, agriculture, land cover classification, disaster monitoring and maritime applications.
Experts at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and RADARSAT Constellation prime contractor Macdonald Dettwiler (MDA) might want to take note that their flagship SAR technology (developed through the groundbreaking RADARSAT 1 & RADARSAT 2 missions) may need to be revised in order to compete in the international marketplace against nimble competitors like SSTL.

But maybe they already know. After all, SSTL has also been contracted by MDA to build the Surveillance of Space (SAPPHIRE) satellite, which will be Canada's first military satellite when it goes into orbit later on this year.

It's a small world we live in.

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