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Space Blog

Clouds no problem for NovaSAR

Cloud cover is one of the main challenges of satellite imaging, because there’s always a risk that the view of an area is disrupted. This is especially true when an area needs to be imaged at regular intervals to detect changes, or when it needs to be imaged rapidly, for example in the event of a disaster. With this in mind, engineers at SSTL have developed a new innovative Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) system called NovaSAR-S which was unveiled this week at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Cape Town.
Rather than follow a traditional development process, the SSTL approach was to design a baseline mission which addressed the question "what imaging performance can we achieve with a spacecraft that can be built and operated at low cost, and is compatible with low cost launches?" NovaSAR-S complements much larger, complex and power-hungry radar satellites with a small and lower priced mission that delivers imagery in all weather during both day and night. One of the biggest technical challenges was managing energy use onboard, which was solved in part by using new highly efficient S-band solid-state amplifier technology. By combining a modified SSTL-300 platform (used by NigeriaSat-2 satellite) with an innovative S-band SAR payload, that was developed in partnership with Astrium, NovaSAR-S offers radar capability for the cost of an earth observation satellite "“ a capability otherwise not considered economically possible. So what’s SAR good at? Imaging through clouds means that NovaSAR is ideal for providing rapid-response imagery for disaster relief operations and aiding disaster assessment, for example in the event of a flooding. Its cloud-piercing imaging also offers new possibilities for crop monitoring, mapping agricultural land and assessing crop condition, as these applications demand imaging on a strictly regular basis "“ come rain or shine. Many of the world's forests are found in tropical areas where cloud cover is dominant, which means that NovaSAR also is well suited for detailed forestry assessments. This baseline SAR is also ideally suited to maritime and coastal applications such as ship and oil spill monitoring, or detecting shifts in ice formations and other environmental phenomena. Of course, it doesn’t stop there "“ and we’re looking forward to exploring the possibilities of this new technology. In this recent article on BBC News online, SSTL’s head of Earth observation, Luis Gomes said: "It's nice to have the technology but we want people to engage in terms of services - to come up with uses for this sort of data for the scientific community and commercial world. These discussions are on-going."





07 October 20110 Comments1 Comment

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