NovaSAR-1: A New Concept in Earth Observation Satellites
The NovaSAR mission successfully started on the 16 September 2018 with the launch of NovaSAR-1, a S-band spaceborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR).
What is NovaSAR-1?
NovaSAR-1 is a small Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) mission designed for low-cost programmes and optimised for shared launch opportunities, using a combination of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies. NovaSAR-1 is the first ever UK manufactured SAR sensor and has been part-funded by the UK Government. Mission partners signed up for capacity from NovaSAR-1 include the UK Space Agency, Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and the Indian Space Reseach Organisation (ISRO).
NovaSAR-1 was developed to be a low-cost, much smaller version of available technologies, whilst still providing medium resolution data with a wide coverage. This is achieved by:
- Reuse of heritage avionics (satellite platform) based upon the SSTL 300 avionics (used for Nigeriasat-2) to reduce risk.
- Compatibility with existing SSTL satellite ground control segment.
- The payload back-end comes from existing Airbus Defence and Space UK instrument architecture.
- Use of COTS technology where suitable to reduce cost.
Conventional SAR satellites vs NovaSAR-1
NovaSAR-1 operates with several peculiarities considering the current spaceborne SAR missions:
- It acquires in S-band at 3.2 GHz (9.4 cm wavelength) with a repeat cycle of 14 days. While S-band sensors are foreseen for future missions, the current market mainly focuses on the X-, C-, and L-bands. Every band triggers specific applications due to the different sensitivity to the target. The S-band potentials have been rarely investigated due to the lack of available data, with the majorities of the studies on focused on forestry and maritime applications. NovaSAR data will provide a baseline to the scientific and industrial communities to exploit this wavelength.
- It operates with local time on ascending node (LTAN) at 10:30, proving acquisition time diversity to most of the spaceborne SAR sensors which operate with a LTAN of 18:00.
- The SAR payload is equipped with an Automated Identification System (AIS) for ship identification. This feature, combined with the wide swath of the maritime mode, represents an important technological advance in ocean surveillance.
- All data from the UK mission share, including all available AIS data, will be made available for free to the public through the SeDAS platform.
Following commissioning, the partners will be given access to the satellite to request imagery over their chosen areas.
End of Operations
With an expected lifetime of 7 years, NovaSAR-1 is due to operate until at least 2026. Many SSTL satellites have outlasted their expected lifetime so this may well be extended.
For further information relating to NovaSAR-1 please visit the CSIRO website for a full list of resources. More information will be added when it becomes available.
Partners and Contributors
Airbus – SAR payload producer
Antrix – Launch provider
Honeywell Aerospace – AIS payload provider
ISRO – Capacity share partner
Satellite Applications Catapult – Capacity share partner
SSTL – NovaSAR-1 owner and operator
UK Space Agency – Capacity share partner
For further information on NovaSAR-1, you can contact us here.