Scottish supercomputer satellites launched into orbit

Scottish supercomputer satellites launched into orbit
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

A pair of Glasgow-built satellites which could revolutionize how data is downloaded from space were successfully launched on 5 July, the UK Space Agency said.

Both satellites were developed under the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) Pioneer program, which turns research and development investment into successful commercial products and services by offering varying degrees of support to projects with different levels of operational and commercial maturity.

The two new satellites, operated by Spire Global and supported by the UK Space Agency, will be able to “process and cherry-pick data from other satellites in orbit before transmitting it to Earth, optimizing and freeing up bandwidth for other tasks and users”.

Spire Global is a data and analytics company that “collects data from space to solve problems on Earth”. It owns and operates a networks of small satellites, known as nanosatellites, identifies, tracks, and predicts the movement of the world’s resources and weather systems – and provides that information to governments and businesses to inform decision-making processes at those institutions.

“Over the past five years, Glasgow has become the best place in Europe to build these innovative, small satellites, with Spire Global alone manufacturing more than 100 on the Clyde,” Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said in a statement.

“These new Glaswegian nanosats were launched from Russia, but we are working hard to ensure that in future we can design, build, test, launch and manage satellites as part of the UK government’s modern Industrial Strategy,” he added. “We are also a leading member of the [ESA] which delivers significant economic benefits back to businesses in the UK.”

“The whole idea of the Pioneer Programme is to give European and Canadian industries access to space, rapidly and at low cost,” Khalil Kably, Pioneer Programme Manager for the ESA, said. “As soon as they have an innovative idea, such as supercomputing by Spire here, we want people to be able to try it in orbit. It’s the ability to go from a new idea to market very quickly, through in-orbit validation.”

“We see these parallel supercomputing scalable devices as a crucially important next step for a new level of accuracy and timeliness in space data analytics,” Peter Platzer, CEO of Spire Global concluded. “The UK Space Agency and ESA have been extremely forward-looking and supportive of Spire’s innovative approach to deploying space technology to solve problems here on Earth.”

The UK Space Agency is also supporting a space incubation centre in Glasgow and has provided support to the Scottish Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications, based at the University of Strathclyde and working across the whole of Scotland.

The Centre’s role is to raise awareness of the potential of satellite services and data to be used in new and improved products and services in other so-called “space enabled” markets – including, for example, offshore renewable energy and aquaculture.

The UK Space Agency said it wants the country to “lead the new space age” and is looking to drive growth across the sector as part of the government’ Industrial Strategy with initiatives such as the £50m Spaceflight programme.

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