Ahead of its first UK launch this year, Virgin Orbit has announced that its satellite will be tasked with tracking a range of illegal activities at sea.
The Amber-1 satellite is set to become the UK’s first orbital launch slated for the summer of 2022. The satellite will be sent into the skies from Spaceport Cornwall, based at Newquay Airport in southwest England – the first operational spaceport in the world. parents.
Once in orbit, the shoebox-sized “cubesat” will be used to combat illegal fishing, smuggling, trafficking and piracy by monitoring spacecraft.
In photos: Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne Rocket for Satellite Missions
Amber-1 will geolocate and demodulate the vessels’ radio frequency data and provide maritime domain knowledge information to users of the UK’s Joint Maritime Safety Center.
The launch is being carried out by Virgin Orbit using a modified Boeing 747-400 aircraft called the Cosmic Girl.
Flying under registration N744VG, the jumbo carries the 70-foot-long (21-meter) LauncherOne under one of its wings — a rocket capable of launching up to 1,100 pounds (500 kg) per mission.
As well as launching Amber-1 into space, Virgin Orbit said the mission will demonstrate how the UK launch can benefit the country’s space sector which, in 2019/20, produced £16.5 billion (about $20, 5 billion) in revenue, according to the UK. government.
In this case, the Amber-1 was developed by The Satellite Applications Catapult and Horizon Technologies, both based in England, and was built by AAC Clyde Space in Scotland.
The launch will also carry a satellite for a Wales-based space manufacturing startup called Space Forth, with the only other confirmed payload being a satellite commissioned by Oman, according to Virgin, which will be used to study hidden patterns. underlying climate change.
The Amber-1 satellite is the first of 20 planned to track ships using Wi-Fi signals, mobile and satellite phone signals, fishing net beacons, radar and high and very high radio frequencies. It will launch into orbit once Cosmic Girl reaches 35,000 feet, at which point the rocket will detach.
“We are delighted to be working with The Catapult and Horizon to launch Amber-1 on this historic planned flight, the first to bring domestic launch capability to the UK,” Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said in a statement. . “We believe that tracking transport from space is vital to keeping the seas safe and that Amber-1 is a key technology that will help in this effort.”
“This important technology and Virgin Orbit’s collaboration with The Catapult are the latest signs of the growth we are seeing in the UK space economy,” added Hart. “This is galvanized by our planned ability to launch directly from the UK into orbit.”
Virgin Orbit said its LauncherOne is a relatively inexpensive and environmentally friendly way to send satellites into space, although its debut orbital test launch in May 2020 failed when a fuel line in the rocket’s final stage burst, Space reported. with previously.
Since then, Virgin Orbit has had three successful launches. A firm launch date for the launch of the Amber-1 satellite has yet to be confirmed.
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