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The European Space Agency is to work with Finnish start-up ICEYE on ways to exploit its novel radar satellites. ICEYE-X1 was launched in January – the first of multiple spacecraft that will go up in the coming years. About the size of a suitcase, these are the world’s smallest synthetic aperture radar satellites and cost a fraction of traditional platforms. The Esa/ICEYE cooperation will focus on technology development and uses for the forthcoming constellation.

It will see future satellites – in particular, their radar antenna design – being tested at the agency’s technical centre (ESTEC) at Noordwijk, Netherlands. Esa’s Earth observation headquarters (ESRIN) at Frascati, Italy, will also assist with calibration and validation of the ICEYE data.

The agency is keen to see how radar images from the mini-satellites can be drawn into the European Union’s Copernicus programme, the broad system of services that depend on space data. Areas of interest are likely to include maritime applications such as ship monitoring, and oil-spill and iceberg detection.

“This is how we can best help so-called ‘New Space’ companies,” said Esa’s director of Earth observation, Josef Aschbacher.

“They don’t need us to build their radar instrument or their satellites; they’re doing that themselves, and I would say faster than if we were involved. But there is a lot of engineering expertise here at Esa that is based on radar missions of more than 20 years,” he told BBC News.

“We want to help ICEYE grow the market by testing and evaluating their value for Copernicus which is potentially a huge customer for them.”

Esa’s own radar missions currently in service include the Sentinel 1a and 1b spacecraft.

 

 

Original Article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-43544211

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