CSIRO and SSTL strike data deal from NovaSAR-S satellite

Australia is to boost its Earth observation capabilities following an agreement to access data from NovaSAR-S, a first in class small radar satellite developed by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited.

NovaSAR-S in flight (Credit: SSTL)
NovaSAR-S in flight (Credit: SSTL)

SSTL will provide Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation a 10 per cent share of the tasking and data acquisition capabilities from NovaSAR-S, which is due for launch later this year. The agreement was signed in Adelaide at the International Astronautical Congress.

NovaSAR-S is a technology demonstration mission designed to complement much larger, complex radar satellites with a smaller, lighter and more cost-effective platform that delivers Earth observation Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery day and night, and through cloud cover.

Managing the energy use on board the small SAR platform has been made possible with a new S-band solid-state amplifier technology and flying an S-band SAR payload developed by Airbus UK.

Luis Gomes, SSTL’s commercial director said: “We anticipate that CSIRO will greatly enhance Australia’s sovereign Earth observation capability with the addition of SAR data, particularly for this continent which has a tropical climate and a large coastline territory.”

The agreement gives CSIRO tasking priorities and the ability to access the raw data directly from the satellite, and a license to use and share the data with other Australian companies and organisations over an initial seven-year period.

Dr Dave Williams, executive director of Digital, National Facilities and Collections at CSIRO, said: “Because we’ll be able to direct the satellite’s activity, it provides significant opportunities to support a wide range of existing research, further develop Australia’s earth observation data analytics expertise, and create new opportunities in the field of remote sensing.”

The ability to image through cloud and at night using SAR technology provides additional and enhanced Earth observation applications and opportunities in disaster monitoring, agricultural monitoring and forestry assessment which require imaging on a regular basis regardless of cloud cover.

NovaSAR-S is also equipped with a wide >400km swath maritime mode for ship detection across oceans and flies an Automatic Identification System to provide additional data for shipping, coastguard and customs authorities.

Some of the practical applications for NovaSAR satellite data and associated research projects include:

Rapid natural disaster identification, monitoring and assessment including after cyclones, floods, earthquakes, pollution and oil spills

Improved infrastructure and agriculture mapping in Northern Australia

Monitoring crops and assessing factors such as plant biomass and soil moisture

Detection of illegal deforestation

Flood risk assessment

Monitoring shipping routes and detecting illegal activity

Source: CSIRO