A New UK Satellite's Job is to Film High Definition Video of the Planet

By Tom Pritchard on at

The Indian space programme is quite good for sending satellites into space, as we saw first hand last year. The latest batch to be flown into orbit has a special guest on board, though: a British satellite designed to do nothing more than film high definition footage of the planet below.

The satellite is operated by Guildford-based Earth-i, and was one of 31 payloads on the Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle that took off from the Satish Dhawan spaceport in Andhra Pradesh yesterday. It's designed as a demonstrator and precursor to a potential constellation of at least 15 satellites, all of which will record footage of the Earth. If it performs well a further five satellites will be launched.

The constellation will be called Vivid-i, and will be the first of its kind provide full-colour high definition footage of the Earth from space. While short pieces of video have been captured in the past, nothing of this scale has been attempted before.

The demonstrator will orbit the planet at a height of 505 kilometres, and will have the ability to stare at particular points on the Earth's surface to take pictures of capture two minute sequences of video. Earth-i CEO Richard Blain told BBC News that the satellite can capture 50 frames a second, allowing them to "stack the individual images and increase our effective resolution, achieving somewhere around 65cm to 75cm."

That effectively means the resolution is good enough to see things like cars and ships moving around, which opens up a host of potential applications for research and analysis. On top of that the system can also produce slightly offset images of its targets, which can be used to create 3D models of the surface.

At the moment the plan is for Earth-i to add five satellites every year, following the launch of the initial five at the end of 2019. [BBC News]

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