Shoebox-sized nanosatellites built in the UK to be launched this month

Two nanosatellites built in the UK will launch later this month, joining a fleet of more than 100 objects in low Earth orbit that predict global trade movements.

The nanosatellites are two of four made by Spire Global UK and backed by more than £6 million of government investment, and will take off on the Russian Soyuz launcher on 24 September. The other two will be aboard an Indian PSLV launcher, due for launch on 1 November.

The nanosatellites have on-board intelligent machine-learning algorithms that can predict the locations of boats, track their whereabouts and their estimated arrival times at ports. This allows port businesses and authorities to manage busy docks safely.

Staff design and build all the sub-systems, and integrate and test the whole spacecraft at the company’s Glasgow headquarters.

Despite only being the size of a shoebox, the nanosatellites can do almost everything a conventional satellite does.

Graham Turnock, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “Nanosatellites weigh less than a piece of cabin luggage, but are enormously powerful in what they can do.

“These four Spire satellites are aimed at making trade hyper-accurate, with technology that makes business more cost effective and efficient.

“Scotland’s space sector is booming. Our membership of ESA [the European Space Agency] is benefiting companies across the UK, and we are committed to supporting the space economy in every region.”

Spire Global UK is a satellite-powered data company that provides predictive analysis of global shipping, aviation and weather forecasting.

The services have been developed under a European Space Agency Pioneer programme, which is a partnership project co-funded by the UK Space Agency.

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