October 3, 2011

SSTL Redefines The Cost Of Radar Imaging With NovaSAR-S

Small satellite manufacturer Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) has today announced completion of the development phase of its new low-cost Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite system. Called NovaSAR-S, the system offers customers coverage of any spot on Earth in all conditions — seeing through cloud cover across both day and night.

The 400-kg NovaSAR-S design combines SSTL´s flight-proven SSTL-300 platform with an innovative S-band SAR payload, developed in collaboration with Astrium Ltd, who will be responsible for supplying the payloads. The challenge has been accommodating the power and processing requirements within a small, low-cost satellite platform. NovaSAR-S´s 3m x 1m phased array antenna was developed by space-borne SAR specialists at Astrium Ltd, and has now been successfully trialed using an airborne demonstrator. The SSTL-300 platform hosting the payload is an adoption of SSTL´s very-high-resolution imaging NigeriaSat-2 mission, which was launched in August.

“Based on highly efficient S-band solid state amplifier technology, NovaSAR-S has been designed to provide detailed imaging performance for a variety of orbits,” said Luis Gomes of SSTL. “It offers space-based radar capability to customers who might not have considered it possible — all for the equivalent cost of a traditional low cost optical Earth observation mission.”

NovaSAR-S acquires medium resolution radar imagery of 6-30 m ground sample distance, depending on the viewing mode being employed. Its four viewing modes are optimized for a wide range of applications, including flood monitoring, agricultural crop assessment, forest monitoring, land cover classification, disaster management and maritime applications — notably ship tracking and oil spill detection.

Radar images reveal surface textures instead of reflected light. A radar satellite illuminates its target with a microwave beam then records the signal bouncing back. In addition, the satellite takes advantage of its rapid motion relative to Earth´s surface to build up an image with sharpened resolution equivalent to that of a much larger ℠synthetic aperture´ antenna.

Intended for equatorial or polar low-Earth orbits, NovaSAR-S offers high data throughput of at least one million square km per day, observing in a variety of polarization combinations to add ℠color´ and detail to acquisitions.

The system is designed to function either independently, or as part of a constellation. A trio of NovaSAR-S satellites could image any point on the globe every day, regardless of local weather or time of day.

SSTL´s unique approach to engineering and project management means it can deliver a complete NovaSAR-S mission into orbit within 24 months. The platform has been specifically sized to facilitate low-cost launch opportunities. SSTL can also offer support on ground segment architecture, data processing and archiving and knowledge transfer, based on customer needs.


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