Chancellor gives Portsmouth space firm a boost

One of two satellites built by Astrium for Eutelsat
One of two satellites built by Astrium for Eutelsat

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PORTSMOUTH is set to benefit from an innovative project to fly radar satellites around the Earth.

Chancellor George Osborne used his Autumn statement today to pledge an initial investment of £21m for the project, part of a £200m boost for science.

The project has been developed by engineers at Astrium in Portsmouth and its subsidiary, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd in Guildford.

Engineers in Guildford will make the satellite’s compact radar platform, while in Portsmouth the satellite’s electronics will be designed, tested and built.

The radar satellites will be able to take pictures of anywhere on Earth within 24 hours, and the pictures are not affected by the planet’s weather.

It is hoped that a series of these NovaSar-S satellites could eventually be launched, enabling any place on Earth to be imaged inside 24 hours - a powerful capability.

SSTL says it can build, launch and insure a NovaSar-S for a customer for less than £45m.

Mr Osborne’s investment, matched by private sector cash, will enable the first NovaSar-S to be put in orbit.

Prof Sir Martin Sweeting, the executive chairman of SSTL, said: ‘We’re hoping we can use this commitment from the UK government to go out to our international customers, who we know have had an interest in radar for a long time, and get them to participate in the first mission, to start with, but then to take up one or two of the other satellites so that we can build a constellation in orbit.’