A British-built satellite constellation able to monitor maritime security, climate change and humanitarian disasters is set to receive £21m in funding from the government.
NovaSAR will consist of four synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites capable of operating day and night in all weather conditions.
According to a statement, they can be used for the repeated viewing of specific areas, which makes them suitable for the maritime surveillance of drug trafficking, piracy and oil spills and for the environmental monitoring of deforestation, flooding and glacial melts.
The government will provide £21m to assist in the development and launch of the first satellite, which is expected to unlock more than £150m of inward investment to the UK.
Once NovaSAR is operational, businesses will be able to use the satellite data to develop a range of Earth observation services.
Minister for universities and science David Willetts said: ‘NovaSAR will keep us at the forefront of space technology and will drive growth and innovation as governments and businesses across the globe develop scientific and commercial uses for the data.’
The first NovaSAR demonstration satellite will be built by Surrey Satellite Technology, with a payload provided by Astrium.
This will be a technology demonstration on a much smaller spacecraft than traditional SAR satellites.
Sir Martin Sweeting, executive chairman at Surrey Satellite Technology, said: ‘This support by the government is absolutely critical in bringing this world-beating technology to market. Experience… has shown that modest government investment can catalyse an enormous multiplier for high-value manufacturers… to grow our exports and share in an international space market worth more than £178bn per year.’
Government seed-fund investment is subject to agreeing a business case and other regulatory and contract terms between industry and the UK Space Agency.
The first NovaSAR demonstration satellite could be launched as early as 2013.