Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) will lead a British project to exploit signals from GPS and GNSS navigation satellites that are reflected from the Earth for remote sensing purposes. The project will investigate a prototype instrument capable of measuring the roughness of the sea and soil moisture content, providing data for atmospheric science and for operational ocean and weather forecasting.
The world leading small satellite mission provider will lead one of five teams awarded funding by the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills (DIUS) supported initiative to further technological capability in line with UK Earth observation science priorities. SSTL will lead a team of experts from the University of Surrey, the University of Bath and the National Oceanographic Centre in Southampton.
Signals from Global Positioning System (GPS) and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) navigation satellites reflected from land, ice and ocean will be analysed by the instrument, which will fly onboard a separate small satellite. A flexible multi-channel receiver will be developed to detect the reflected GNSS signals for surface sea-state measurements. Using the new remote sensing technique, it is possible to derive important scientific data about the nature of the reflecting surface and the atmosphere, such as the sea-surface roughness or soil moisture content.
Sea-surface roughness is important for operational ocean and weather forecasting and impacts many areas of ocean and atmospheric science. For example, the air-sea exchange of gases is controlled by surface roughness. Evidence suggests that the better sampling offered by a new instrument will have a direct impact on our understanding of the magnitude and distribution of atmospheric carbon dioxide uptake by the ocean, with important applications in the prediction of high winds, dangerous sea states, risk of flooding and storm surges.
Opportunities to fly this instrument have been identified both through SSTL’s own satellite launching capability and through the European Space Agency (ESA) as an approved addition to a future Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity operational mission (SMOS-ops) to measure soil moisture and ocean salinity.
Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) is the world’s leading small satellite company, delivering operational space missions for a range of applications including Earth observation, science and communications. The company design, manufacture and operate high performance satellites and ground systems for a fraction of the price normally associated with spacecraft, with 300 staff working on turnkey satellite platforms, space-proven satellite subsystems and optical instruments. Since 1981 SSTL has launched 32 satellites as well as providing training and development programmes, consultancy services, and mission studies for ESA, NASA and commercial customers, changing the economics of space. Based in Guildford, UK, SSTL is owned by EADS Astrium NV. www.sstl.co.uk