The first all-British radar satellite is set to go into orbit later to monitor suspicious shipping activity.

Lift-off of the NovaSAR satellite is scheduled from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India at 17:37 BST today.

NovaSAR-S is a joint technology demonstration initiative of SSTL (Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.), UK, and Airbus DS (former EADS Astrium Ltd, Stevenage, UK), funded by the UK Government via the UKSA (UK Space Agency). The overall objective is to make SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) observation missions more affordable to a customer base and to open up new application-oriented in the microwave region of the spectrum.

The company say that in the past decade, programmes such as the DMC (Disaster Monitoring Constellation) have proven that a low cost, small satellite approach can provide solutions for medium resolution EO (Earth Observation) applications. However, these have all been optical missions. SAR missions have well known night time and all weather advantages over optical missions but have not yet made the same evolutionary step.

NovaSAR-S reportedly provides medium resolution (6-30m) imagery ideal for applications in the following fields:

– flood monitoring

– agricultural crop assessment

– forest monitoring (temperate and rain forest)

– land use mapping

– disaster management

– maritime applications (e.g. ship detection, oil spill monitoring, maritime safety, and security of defence applications).

The UK Space Agency has invested £21M in the development of NovaSAR-1 and will benefit from access to data from the spacecraft, significantly boosting the UK’s sovereign Earth observation capabilities and leveraging additional inward investment to the UK by creating highly skilled jobs in the UK space industry, and stimulating the growth of data analysis services.

Also on the PSLV-C42 launch will be the SSTL S1-4, a sub-one metre resolution Earth observation satellite with a mass of 440kg that will further enhance SSTL’s existing in-orbit observation capabilities, say the firm.

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This is superb news. As the Labour Party moves closer to power, this is exactly the kind of initiative we should be looking to expand. Why? National sovereignty. A post-Brexit UK is going to be, to an extent unknown since the pre-WW2 period, alone in the world. Any allies we have will be transactional and contingent. Not a huge issue, but one that will need to be grappled with. The party that best demonstrates (beyond verbals) that the UK can thrive alone will perforce be attractive to many voters outside its base. Defence industrial. It is absolutely vital that we,… Read more »

Nigel Collins

Yet another fantastic achievement that was designed and built by British engineers, soon to be launched from UK shores I hope!

David Taylor

Situational awareness is the key to everything.

Shame we don’t have our own ISTR constellation.


Cool. Well done UKSA


(Chris H) Well this makes the EU’s attitude over Galileo look rather stupid. That SI – 4 also being launched will be taking pictures of China for Twenty First Century Aerospace Technology (21AT). This company, based in Beijing, will use the data in the Asian nation to help with urban planning, working out crop yields, pollution monitoring and doing biodiversity assessments, among many other applications. When China is buying UK built satellites and technology why did we ever get sucked into giving it all to the EU? We have had the capability to build satellites for our sole use all… Read more »


We’ve been a threat to everyone and so systematically dismantled or bought out by foreign ownership over the years, right under our ever watchful (ahem) MPs noses. Everybody is terrified of a full steam ahead UK it seems.

No wonder the USA is absolutely fuming with us behind closed doors…?

Daniele Mandelli

One day… One day the Lion will roar again!!

It’s been muzzled for far too long.

Daniele Mandelli

What security is in place to stop sensitive stuff padding to India?

I find it quite shameful that we do not have the means to do this in house on home soil.


We definitely need to do this home grown. I beleive we still give India foreign aid yet they have a space launch programme and we don’t. We need to build up this capability to be home grown over time perhaps build space x rockets on license in the UK and secure a good chunk of the polar orbit market, as well as build upon Ascension Island infrastructure and then we can go for the other orbits form there.

Daniele Mandelli

Yes Ascension had occurred to me too.

David E Flandry

Ascension could end up being the most valuable piece of British real estate since Hong Kong.

Steve M

Ascension is rather remote to support a large rocket program. There would have to be upgrades to all infrastructure, not to mention the cost of shipping rocket parts via sea.


Ascension Island makes more sense than the proposed vertical launch site in Northern Scotland. For starters the climate is a lot more agreeable. But more importantly it is very remote and not overflown by domestic air transport. Further because of the distance from the African continent aborting the rocket after take-off should cause many issues.
However, I fully support both the proposed vertical and horizontal launch programmes. Not only would this be a strategic asset but more importantly a revenue earner.

Steve M

It all depends on what you’re launching. Micro/mini-sats from Scotland are a no brainer as they don’t really need the equatorial launch assist to be economically viable, not to mention the logistics are absolutely excellent when launching UK made sats. Also, the Scottish launches will go out over the Arctic so aborts over populated areas just won’t happen (unless someone seriously screws up).

If we’re launching heavier payloads then ascension becomes an option, but only if we can develop the island cost-effectively. Otherwise just paying SpaceX or Blue Origin to launch from Kennedy makes more sense.


Progressively scale back foreign aid so it is not a shock, and refocus that funding on space launch capability etc. We can help certain countries by building tracking station infrastructure in those locations with local resources, and tie in educational programmes with said locations and similar.

Daniele Mandelli

It’s all kicked off in Salisbury again apparently.

“Russians” Ill in a Prezzo.


2 Russian spies caught trying to hack in to the IT system of the swiss lab testing the novichoks samples as well ,this is going to run and run.


I’ve heard the next iteration of the satellite will use an X-band radar instead of the current S (E) band radar. This will give it much better target resolution and if used with synthetic aperture techniques will give near picture quality images. Go Team GB.


We really are cutting edge in this field. It’s great!