The images from the NovaSAR-1, the first Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite, were presented at the Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL).


SAR can see through clouds and image the Earth throughout the day. These images can be used to detect oil spills as well as suspicious shipping activity. They are also able to monitor deforestation.

The satellite was launched in September and tests a new platform for low-cost satellite imaging. In fact, the UK has invested £21 million to help develop the NovaSAR-1, with the aim to advance UK’s Earth observation capabilities.

The images show show small boats moored at Church Point, north of Sydney, indicating the ability of SAR to detect vessels of different sizes and types, especially at night or over clouds.

Science Minister Sam Gyimah. emphasized that:

This ‘eye in the sky’ can capture an image a dozen times wider than the Strait of Dover and the data it provides can help crack problems from illegal shipping to alerting us to damaging pollution that needs to be countered

The satellite’s maritime mode enables it to monitor an area of ocean 400km wide. With this range, the satellite can detect ships using radar and compare with ship tracking data. If any differences are noted between the two, this could be an indication of a potential illegal activity.

The UK Space Agency, Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), have all signed up to receive data from the NovaSAR-1.