Tag Archive for: SAR

The UK Space Agency is providing £1.2 million in funding to Horizon Technologies for the launch of a replacement satellite, Amber Phoenix, scheduled for mid-2024. Horizon Technologies lost its previous satellite, Amber IOD-3, when a Virgin Orbit LauncherOne rocket failed during a launch attempt in January. Amber Phoenix is a 6U cubesat designed to scan radio frequencies from ships seeking to evade detection. AAC Clyde Space is manufacturing the satellite, while the launch provider has not yet been confirmed. Horizon Technologies, which specializes in maritime surveillance, will provide the remaining funds for the satellite program.

The UK government’s funding for this satellite replacement project highlights the growing importance of satellite technology for national security and maritime surveillance. In an era of increasing global connectivity and data exchange, monitoring radio frequencies from ships and other sources has become a crucial tool for governments and agencies seeking to safeguard their national interests.

This development also showcases the value of satellite technology and cubesats in particular for security and defense applications. These small, cost-effective satellites are gaining more recognition as they provide flexible and accessible solutions for various space missions. The focus on replacing a lost satellite with a new and improved version underscores the resilience of space technology, where failures are often viewed as opportunities to learn and innovate.

he challenges Horizon Technologies faced with its initial satellite launch plans highlight the complexities and uncertainties associated with space missions. Factors such as pandemic-related delays, launch provider issues, and other logistical challenges can significantly impact the timing of satellite projects. This is especially true for smaller companies and startups entering the space industry.

The grant from the UK Space Agency, in this case, has played a crucial role in allowing Horizon Technologies to overcome these hurdles and continue its expansion into space-based services. As space technologies become increasingly important for national security, surveillance, and other applications, such funding and support from government agencies can make a significant difference for private enterprises.

Horizon Technologies’ decision to replace the lost Amber IOD-3 satellite underscores the strategic importance of maintaining and enhancing space assets. These assets play a vital role in modern surveillance, telecommunications, and environmental monitoring, making it essential to have contingency plans and resources to address any potential setbacks.

Horizon Technologies’ ambitious plans for its Amber constellation demonstrate the increasing role of small satellites in addressing security and surveillance challenges. Here are some key takeaways:

  1. Enhanced Maritime Security: The Amber constellation is designed to enhance maritime security by providing real-time radio frequency (RF) data. This can help detect illegal activities such as piracy, smuggling, and other threats to maritime security. The UK. Royal Navy’s involvement highlights the potential of space-based solutions in addressing security concerns in a broader context.
  2. Global Coverage and Rapid Data: With plans to deploy over 20 Amber payloads in low Earth orbit, Horizon aims to offer worldwide RF data with a latency of just 30 minutes. This near-real-time data can significantly improve the ability to respond to security threats and challenges in the maritime domain.
  3. Government and Commercial Opportunities: Horizon Technologies intends to market its space-based detection services to other governments and commercial customers. This highlights the commercial potential of satellite-based solutions for addressing security and surveillance needs.
  4. Synergy with Earth Observation and SAR Constellations: Integrating RF-tracking payloads into partner Earth observation and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) constellations is a strategic move. It allows for more comprehensive data collection by leveraging existing constellations to capture additional information in areas identified as interesting by RF payloads.
  5. Collaboration with Earth Observation and SAR Companies: Horizon Technologies is actively collaborating with Earth observation and SAR companies to integrate RF-tracking capabilities into their upcoming satellite launches. This collaborative approach expands the network and capabilities of the Amber constellation.

Overall, Horizon’s vision for the Amber constellation demonstrates the growing importance of small satellites and their potential to address a wide range of security and surveillance challenges. It also highlights the synergy between space-based solutions and existing Earth observation and SAR constellations, underscoring the importance of integrated data for comprehensive situational awareness.

Satellite imagery can help the public be in the loop better than previously for different world events. On the day before the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, Jeffrey Lewis, a well-known figure on social media under the handle @ArmsControlWonk, tweeted that someone was on the move. He had been monitoring Russian movements for days leading up to the invasion using synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite data from Capella Space, a commercial company.

In the tweet, he included a SAR image of a Russian armored unit that had recently arrived in Belgorod, near the Ukraine border. Despite Lewis believing that the invasion was imminent, many skeptics were still unconvinced by the commercially available satellite image.

Lewis expressed his amazement at the intelligence now available to the public. He noted that this is the first war where people can follow updates on social media, whereas in the past, most of the satellite images about world events came from government sources.

Lewis notes that no other conflict has had the same immersive quality as the current conflict in Ukraine, largely due to the abundance of social media information, which often includes satellite imagery. As a professor of nonproliferation studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California, Lewis is known for pioneering the use of open-source intelligence for independent reporting on issues such as North Korea’s nuclear weapons and the aftermath of natural disasters. On the day before the invasion, Lewis used publicly available data, such as a video posted on TikTok and Google Maps, to corroborate the SAR image of the Russian armored unit.

According to Lewis, some of his colleagues thought it was crazy to fuse the data from social media and satellite images. Similarly, the Institute for the Study of War, a research group based in Washington, has used satellite imagery and other open-source intelligence to track events in Ukraine, and commercial imagery has been instrumental for their work. George Barros, a geospatial intelligence analyst at ISW, believes that these new technologies can be leveraged to provide honest, timely, and accurate assessments to inform the public.

“There’s been an explosion in the kinds of data that people can collect commercially, which is fantastic and amazing,” Barros says.

The U.S. government, to be sure, helped to open the spigot of commercial imagery because it knew an invasion was about to happen but could not share its own classified satellite images with allies or news media.

Lewis credits the Biden administration for the unprecedented release of commercial imagery and for ensuring the images were “annotated and pointing to things that analysts like me could go check.”

While electro-optical images provided by Maxar, Planet, BlackSky and others are really powerful and visually appealing, Lewis considers SAR the “breakout technological capability of this particular war.” In Ukraine, he says, “when you take optical images, what you frequently get is a picture of clouds.”

Whether it’s radar, optical or other forms of satellite-based data, he says, there is still a lot of potential in commercial imagery that hasn’t yet been realized. In conversations with colleagues, “I point out to them all the time that satellite imagery would solve a ton of problems they have, but they’re just intimidated by it.”

Radar imagery is especially challenging because it’s not a picture that can be understood intuitively, he says. Making sense of SAR data requires special software tools and an investment in trained analysts, “so that’s always been a little bit of a barrier.”

Although there’s still more work to be done in this area, the geospatial intelligence community will view the Ukraine war as a pivotal moment in the use of information from space to inform and to shape world events, says Lewis. “We’re entering an era in which it’s just very hard to keep a lot of activities secret.”

PlanetWatchers has developed a new multi-source Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) platform that utilizes multiple SAR sources to deliver actionable insights without the usual delays due to weather, time of day, and environmental conditions. Natural resource managers will now receive enhanced risk management and analytical data from the new platform.Photo: PlanetWatchers

World-renowned remote sensing specialist Professor Dirk Hoekman recently joined PlanetWatchers radar team and directs the company’s new SAR initiatives. With global experience stretching across North America, South America, and Asia, he is committed to maximizing the efficacy of research into the physical aspects of remote sensing and microwave remote sensing and developing effective remote sensing applications in forestry, agriculture, agro-hydrology, and environmental change climate studies.

Dr. Hoekman actively engages with PlanetWatchers clients in forestry, sugarcane, energy, and agriculture. “Natural resources managers are now highly dependent on data, analytics, and insights to help make better-informed business decisions and address risk effectively,” he observes.

“I look forward to collaborating with the team, leading the new SAR initiatives, and working with our growing client base around the world to deliver meaningful, actionable business intelligence.”

Ariel Smoliar, CEO of PlanetWatchers, adds, “Managers base key decisions on data. Until recently, their ability to gather useful data was constrained by environmental factors such as massive cloud cover and heavy prolonged rains; smoke, gases, and wildfires; poor light conditions for satellite imagery; availability of airborne systems and drones; etc.

“After studying the issue extensively, we have developed a new proprietary solution with Artificial Intelligence proven to overcome these challenges.

“Data can now be obtained, as needed, without having to wait for optimal visibility. Analytical insights can be implemented right away–to stop a bad situation from getting worse.”

PlanetWatchers has already successfully completed a number of major engagements around the world using its SAR -based Analytics Platform in a variety of vertical industries including forestry, sugarcane, and energy. “Numerous clients received exceptional field intelligence, and implemented it with measurable gains,” says Smoliar.

The SAR Analytics Platform tasks multi-source SAR sources combined with optical imagery and AI-driven analytics to provide the ‘Last Mile of Analytics, – actionable intelligence critically important to operations, supply chain, risk management, and planning departments at natural resource companies.

The platform identifies a wide array of parameters, such as crop uniformity and environmental damage caused by wildfires, pests, and weather anomalies that directly impact yield, risks, and profitability.