News story

Surrey satellite firm set for lift off from India

A British-built radar satellite which will provide a host of benefits to life on Earth will launch into space this evening (Sunday 16 September) from India.

Artist's impression of NovaSAR satellite

Artist's impression of NovaSAR satellite. Credit: SSTL.

NovaSAR-1, designed and built by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) in Guildford, will be able to see through clouds and image the world night and day.

The new spacecraft from SSTL will offer low cost remote imaging to global customers including the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

SSTL is a great British success story, which already has 40% of the world’s small satellite export market.

Science Minister Sam Gyimah said:

The data from this satellite, backed by a £21 million investment from the government, will help innovative start-ups develop new apps that could revolutionise the way we live.

It’s a great example of how we are working with the space sector through our modern Industrial Strategy, ensuring we remain at the forefront of pioneering science and exploration.

The UK is a world leader in Earth Observation technologies which have an increasing number of down to Earth applications, including through the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP). This programme harnesses the expertise of the British space sector to tackle problems all around the world, from predicting dengue fever outbreaks in Vietnam to improving healthcare in Nigeria through satellite connectivity.

There is also a significant commercial opportunity, with Earth Observation satellite services estimated to support industries representing a total turnover of more than £235 billion.

Since 1981, SSTL has built and launched more than 50 satellites for 20 international customers including in Europe, USA and Canada – as well as providing training and development programmes, consultancy services, and mission studies for ESA, NASA, international governments and commercial customers.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox recently launched the Department for International Trade’s first space exports campaign to target opportunities initially in the US and India.

The ‘Space Exports’ campaign will see 2 of the world’s fastest growing markets targeted with trade missions. In India the Department for International Trade (DIT) will also increase its operation by recruiting British space sector experts to work in market.

Minister of State for the Department for International Trade, Baroness Fairhead, said:

SSTL is a fantastic example of how UK innovation and engineering can have a global impact. It is clear that our space industry is thriving, resulting in significant growth which reinforces the UK’s reputation as a leader in the sector.

Overseas sales are vital to sustaining this growth, and our recently launched Export Strategy outlines the support available to companies to help them fulfil their exporting potential. I would encourage companies that are looking to follow in SSTL’s footsteps to make use of financial support from UK Export Finance and the extensive export opportunities that are listed on

The UK Space Agency has invested £21 million 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.

NovaSAR-1 will use Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), which can observe the earth’s surface both day and night, even when thick cloud is present. NovaSAR-1’s radar was developed to be cheaper and more compact than existing instruments, through a £2 million project funded by Innovate UK, the UK Space Agency and the South East England Development Agency.

Dr Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said:

This exciting new satellite, with its powerful imaging radar system and compact design, has been developed and built in the UK, and will provide a host of benefits for applications including the detection of oil spills, flood monitoring and agriculture.

The government wants the UK to thrive in the commercial space age as part of the modern Industrial Strategy. This mission demonstrates SSTL’s world leading skills and the exciting potential for further growth in our sector.

The satellite is due to launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India at 17:37 (BST).

NovaSAR-1 was designed and manufactured by SSTL, with an S-Band SAR payload developed by Airbus Defence and Space in Portsmouth and an Automatic Identification Receiver supplied by Honeywell Aerospace.

Published 16 September 2018