Australia gets new eyes in the sky

Australia’s principal science agency, the CSIRO, has secured access to a new UK-built satellite touted as one of the most sophisticated ever made.

The NovaSAR, due to be launched later this year, has been part-funded by the British government in a joint venture with aviation company Airbus and bespoke manufacturers Surrey Satellite Technologies.

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The 430-kilogram satellite uses an imaging strategy known as synthetic aperture radar. This takes advantage of a moving platform – a satellite or aircraft – to take multiple readings, combining them over time to produce a highly detailed two- or three-dimensional image with a density of detail previously only achievable by using very large radar antennae.

According to its manufacturers, the imaging tech on the NovaSAR makes it well suited to environmental monitoring tasks, including collecting data from floods and natural disasters, and assessing large-scale land impacts, including crop growth or ice-melt patterns.

Under the Australian agreement, the CSIRO has access to 10% of the satellite’s run and research time, a deal worth more than $10 million over the next seven years.

The organisation’s executive director of Digital, National Facilities and Collections, Dave Williams, says access to the NovaSAR will significantly enhance the CSIRO’s data collection capability.

“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,” he says.

Novasar will combine multiple slices of imagery to compose a large detailed picture.
NovaSAR will combine multiple slices of imagery to compose a large detailed picture.

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