Images of the earth

The first high resolution images of the Earth transmitted by TopSat have been received at QinetiQ’s West Freugh ground station.

The first high resolution images of the Earth transmitted by TopSat, the micro-satellite designed and built by a QinetiQ-led consortium of British firms, have been received at QinetiQ’s West Freugh ground station.

The low cost Earth observation satellite is just weeks into its mission following a successful launch from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in Northern Russia on October 27 2005.

TopSat was designed and built by a consortium of British companies led by QinetiQ. Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) developed and manufactured the satellite platform and was responsible for the integration of the payload testing, arranging the launch at Cosmos, and commissioning the satellite platform in orbit. Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) designed and manufactured the on-board camera and Infoterra is marketing TopSat data products.

In the future, a constellation of three or four TopSat satellites could image almost any point on the Earth at least once a day, subject to cloud conditions, opening up the potential for quick response imagery which is extremely cost effective to deliver.

TopSat is one of three satellite projects funded under the MOSAIC programme (the BNSC Small Satellite Programme). The programme is intended to exploit the UK‘s capability in small satellites and to stimulate the development of key small satellite technologies and payloads.

The satellite image shown here was acquired at on Wednesday 7 December 2005. The morning traffic is clearly visible on the QueenElizabethIIBridge at the Dartford Crossing, UK. The image shows Thurrock and the Lakeside shopping centre in Essex to the north, and Greenhithe and the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent to the south. Ships are visible underway from the Thames estuary and alongside at the Tilbury docks to the east. TopSat imagery at nadir has a nominal 2.8m resolution in black and white and 5.7m in colour.

The programme has been jointly funded by the British National Space Centre (BNSC) and the UK Ministry of Defence at a mission cost below £14m.