Three more nano-satellites have been launched as part of ESA’s efforts to boost the European space industry, fostering innovation and creating jobs.
The satellites will be used to monitor climate change, forecast the weather, track ships at sea and aeroplanes in flight, and connect electronic devices to one another through the internet of things, enabling people to stay connected to one another everywhere and all the time.
They were launched as part of ESA’s Pioneer Partnership Programme, with support from the UK Space Agency, which aims to boost entrepreneurism by helping relatively small companies to demonstrate how new and advanced telecommunications technologies can work in space and provide new commercial services.
Two of the satellites, equipped with terminals enabling optical inter-satellite links, were developed by Spire, a UK-based data and analytics company that uses a constellation of nanosatellites to track weather patterns, and follow maritime and aviation traffic.
The third was developed by In-Space Missions, a satellite manufacturer based in the UK that offers rideshares for companies that seek to quickly demonstrate their technologies without having to organise their own launches. The spacecraft will support eight different payloads from companies including Lacuna Space and SatixFy, both based in the UK.
Some 15 satellites are already operational in orbit, thanks to the Pioneer Partnership Programme, and a further 12 satellites are due to be launched in the coming two years.
Established in 2017, the Pioneer Partnership Programme enables the European and Canadian space industries to validate new technologies and services in orbit, in a timely and cost-effective manner.
ESA is working with four further companies as part of the Pioneer Partnership Programme to support innovation in the European space industry: small satellite provider AAC Clyde Space, based in the UK; satellite manufacturer Airbus in France; data company Open Cosmos in the UK; and Sitael, the largest privately owned space company in Italy.
Elodie Viau, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA, said: “ESA is proud to enable small and medium-sized enterprises in Europe to become space mission providers and enter the space industry through programmes such as Pioneer.
“Pioneer provides innovators and entrepreneurs with the means to access space through cost-effective processes, creating jobs and boosting prosperity, and supporting the success of the European and Canadian space industry in the highly competitive global telecommunications market.”
Amanda Solloway, UK Science Minister, said: “As we get ready to host COP26, the UK is leading the way in using space to tackle climate change. These satellites will provide important data to monitor our environment as we build back greener.
“This technology will also provide exciting innovation in remote sensing and tracking, kickstarting UK industry to offer new services that will improve lives not just in the UK but around the world.”
Theresa Condor, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Spire Space Services, said: “At a critical time for our planet, and with COP26 taking place later this year, we need to be able to map out and report on rapidly changing phenomena on Earth. That is the core purpose of Spire’s constellation, because enhanced data and better predictive analytics help us to further understand our environment and the impact we have on it.”
Doug Liddle, CEO at In-Space Missions, said: “The team here at In-Space is incredibly proud to be launching our highly capable and innovative satellite which has come together in less than a year. We’re particularly excited to be flying on a Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral – a location with such an amazing history.”