Home Science Two UK-built nanosatellites will be launched into orbit this month

Two UK-built nanosatellites will be launched into orbit this month

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Two UK-built nanosatellites no heavier than a piece of cabin luggage will be launched into orbit this month to track global ship movements thanks to £6 million government grant

  • A UK Space Agency £6 million grant helped fund the nanosatellite development
  • Two sets nanosatellites will be launched into orbit by Scottish-form Spire Global 
  • The first pair of satellites will go up on a Russian Soyuz rocket on September 24 
  • The second set of spacecraft will launch on an Indian PSLV rocket in November 

A pair of shoebox sized nanosatellites built in the UK thanks to a £6million government grant will launch from a Russian Soyuz rocket later this month.

The spacecraft will join a fleet of more than 100 objects in low Earth orbit that work together to track the whereabouts of ships and predict global ocean traffic.

The two satellites are made by Spire Global UK and are part of a set of four equipped with a machine learning algorithm to estimate the times vessels will arrive in ports.

The first pair will go up on a Soyuz rocket on September 24 and the other two are expected to launch on an Indian PSLV launcher on November 1.  

The British-made satellites are designed, built, tested, integrated and assembled by Spire Global staff at the firms headquarters in Glasgow. 

The spacecraft will join a fleet of more than 100 objects in low Earth orbit that work together to track the whereabouts of ships and predict global ocean traffic

The spacecraft will join a fleet of more than 100 objects in low Earth orbit that work together to track the whereabouts of ships and predict global ocean traffic

Despite being the size of a shoebox and weighing no more than standard cabin baggage, the nanosatellites have all the functionality of a conventional satellite. 

Graham Turnock, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said nanosatellites are enormously powerful in what they can do.

The four being launched by Spire Global have been described as ‘supercomputers’ in space – with more than a teraflop of processing power. 

It’s hoped future nanosatellites could be launched from British soil – with the first expected to go up from Scotland as early as next year. 

‘These four Spire satellites are aimed at making trade hyper-accurate, with technology that makes business more cost effective and efficient,’ said Turnock.

‘Scotland’s space sector is booming. Our membership of ESA is benefiting companies across the UK, and we are committed to supporting the space economy in every region.’

Spire Global UK is a satellite-powered data company that provides predictive analysis of global shipping, aviation and weather forecasting.

Peter Platzer, chief executive and co-founder of Spire Global said their goal was to help companies and organisations predict ‘what’s next’ and make better decisions.

The two satellites are made by Spire Global UK and are part of a set of four equipped with a machine learning algorithm to estimate the times vessels will arrive in ports

The two satellites are made by Spire Global UK and are part of a set of four equipped with a machine learning algorithm to estimate the times vessels will arrive in ports

‘This month we are moving this forward by launching a true super-computer into orbit – 1-2 teraflops! – so that we can analyse data right in orbit, using smart algorithms and machine learning,’ Platzer said.

‘This will allow us to get better, smarter and faster analytics to our customers for their business decisions.’ 

The services have been developed under a European Space Agency (ESA) Pioneer programme, which is a partnership project co-funded by the UK Space Agency.

Elodie Viau, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA, said this was a prime example of the benefits of the Pioneer programme.    



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