Hypersat has awarded a design-phase contract to QinetiQ Inc. (QinetiQ) for their next generation hyperspectral satellite — this study will be an enabling activity for a potential constellation of six LEO satellites that Hypersat plans to launch and that will be capable of producing greater information about the material properties on Earth than any current capability in orbit.
QinetiQ will lead a team of specialist engineering and technology organisations across the US that includes Redwire, Millennium Engineering and Integration, LLC and Brandywine Photonics. The team selected Virgin Orbit as the launch provider in part because of the unparalleled agility, mobility, and responsiveness afforded by air-launch, which allows for shorter call-up times and more flexible scheduling for customers, as well as direct injection into precise target orbits. In addition to the value for commercial customers, this capability enables a major strategic advantage to government organisations seeking to maintain unencumbered overhead intelligence.
Each satellite will achieve its incredible resolution by offering hyperspectral imaging – the ability to capture and process an image at wavelengths across the whole reflective spectrum from visible light to longwave infrared, pixel by pixel. This enables the identification of items in an image with superb precision, whether a camouflaged vehicle; diseased crops within a harvest; or gases leaking from a pipeline. That level of information allows users to make informed decisions only dreamed of in the past.
The first satellite, to be launched in early 2023, will have 500 spectral bands across the visible to shortwave infrared region and a ground sample distance of 6m – almost twice that available from existing LEO satellites. The following five satellites will offer longwave infrared images and even more capability in the shortwave infrared region.
The high spatial and high spectrum pixel resolution available from its sensor payload will allow the satellites to be used not only in defense and security applications, but also for other commercial sectors, such as agriculture and insurance, where highly accurate earth observation images can inform critical decisions.
Derek Woods, Founder, President and CEO of Hypersat LLC, said, “The partnership with QinetiQ and Virgin Orbit ensures our satellites are on a path to orbit with the most capable team possible. We look forward to redefining earth observation with an unparalleled hyperspectral and long wave capability.”
Mary Williams, President, QinetiQ Inc. said, “We are excited to partner with Hypersat and Virgin Orbit on this ground breaking program. QinetiQ’s expertise in hyperspectral systems development and data analytics is helping to provide cutting edge technology for both public and commercial organizations; bringing space-based technology to defense and security customers while also supporting the remote sensing needs of civil, environmental and commercial industries.”
“Virgin Orbit is making good on our promise to unleash the small satellite revolution,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart. “QinetiQ’s team embodies the bold energy of this new era of space. It’s extremely exciting to join with our partners to deploy new capabilities and new ideas that will shape our world.”