UK Space Agency reports launch of Scotland-built nanosatellites into orbit

The UK Space Agency announces launch of Glasgow-built nanosatellites into orbitImage: The UK Space Agency announces launch of Glasgow-built nanosatellites into orbit. Photo: courtesy of Crown copyright.

The UK Space Agency reported that a pair of small supercomputer satellites built in Glasgow, Scotland, has been launched into orbit from Russia which it says can potentially revolutionise how data is downloaded from space.

The agency said that data collected by satellites can be slow to download because of the volume of traffic. Even if it is for obtaining specific elements, users often end up downloading very large files they don’t require, said the UK Space Agency.

To address such issues, Spire Global, a space-to-cloud data and analytics company, operates a network of small satellites, called nanosatellites, which gather and transmit a variety of valuable data.

The two new nanosatellites, which are backed by the UK Space Agency, are said to be capable of processing and cherry-picking data from other satellites in orbit before transmitting it to Earth. The UK Space Agency said that the process optimises and frees up bandwidth for other tasks and users.

UK Space Agency chief executive Graham Turnock said: “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.

“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.”

The two nanosatellites were developed under the Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) Pioneer programme of the European Space Agency (ESA). The role of ARTES is to transform research and development investment into successful commercial products and services by providing varying degrees of support to projects with various levels of operational and commercial maturity.

Spire Global CEO Peter Platzer said: “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. 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.”

In June 2019, the UK Space Agency said that the ESA will target to launch Comet Interceptor, a new space mission proposed by the UK, in 2028. The Comet Interceptor’s goal will be to travel to a comet that is yet to reach the inner Solar System.