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UK satellite to make movies from space

UK satellite to make movies from space
From BBC - January 11, 2018

A British satellite has gone into orbit on an Indian rocket to acquire full-colour, high-definition video of the surface of the Earth.

The demonstrator is expected to pave the way for a series of at least 15 such spacecraft, which will be operated by the Guildford-based company Earth-i.

The small, low-cost UK mission was one of 31 payloads riding on the Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

It lifted off from the Satish Dhawan spaceport in Andhra Pradesh.

Controllers made first contact with the UK satellite as planned within a few hours.

The spacecraft is a pre-production model. If it performs well over the coming months, its manufacturer, SSTL, also in Guildford, will proceed with Earth-i's first batch of five operational spacecraft.

The contract for these platforms was signed in November.

The forthcoming constellation - which will be known as Vivid-i - will be the first of its kind to provide hi-def, full-colour video.

Short movies of the Earth's surface have been acquired from orbit before, but not on the envisaged scale.

The demonstrator will circle the globe at an altitude of 505km.

It has the ability to point and stare at a particular location. It can take a still picture or gather two-minute movie sequences.

"We can collect up to 50 frames per second which is a lot of information," explained Earth-i CEO Richard Blain.

"That allows us to stack the individual images and increase our effective resolution, achieving somewhere around 65cm to 75cm," he told BBC News.

This is more than sharp enough to see moving objects like cars and ships. Image analysts could use such views to monitor and model traffic flow around cities, and in and out of ports.

But the system can also be configured to generate slightly offset images of a target which can then be assembled into 3D models of surface elevation.

This approach could be used to make urgent maps for relief teams entering an earthquake disaster zone, for example.

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