back to article Brit military boffins buy airtime on HD eye-in-the-sky video satellite

The RAF has acquired a satellite that can beam live video footage from space, the head of the air force told an industry gathering in Surrey today. The Carbonite-2 satellite, built by Airbus Defence and Space subsidiary Surrey Satellites, based near Guildford, will be used by British military intelligence folk as a concept …

  1. BobChip

    State of the art

    Nice to know we can make this stuff -- but not quite so nice to know that we have to rely on someone else to launch it...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: State of the art

      Pretty much everyone except the Chinese have one or more partners. It warms this Yanks heart that India is yours. Hard chargers.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: State of the art

      1m res earth observation satellites are now startup territory. There are half a dozen groups with constellations of 20-30 being launched to provide continuous coverage. One satellite has very limited coverage unless you want to use a lot of fuel

  2. lawndart

    The size of a washing machine

    As long as they don't try to spin stabilize it at 1,200 rpm they should be ok

  3. Teiwaz

    Video From Space or two Space?

    I got a little confused and thought they were trying a version of the Minmay Attack/Defence

    1. Mark 85

      Re: Video From Space or two Space?

      Points for that. I was thinking Han Solo floating in orbit....

  4. Gene Cash Silver badge

    £4.5m for a satellite? That's actually pretty good rates.

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Yeah; about that - at the beginning it says buying airtime on. That's not the same as buying the bird; the same way I don't own an A320 after buying a ticket on easyjet.

      1. Halfmad

        Demonstration purposes, basically doing proof of concept and building business cases for whatever it is they have planned in the future.

        Very early days essentially.

  5. Pen-y-gors


    ""effective resolution" could be as low as "65 to 75cm".

    So, not much use for live-streaming the footy after it goes to Pay-per-view?

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Re: Low-res?

      I'd heard that Virgin were increasing their monthly charges, but £4.5m to watch a football match? No wonder people are leaving in their droves.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Sounds cool!

    Han me my coat, I'm leaving.

  7. Trigonoceps occipitalis


    "Currently the Armed Forces' satellite needs are met by the not-at-all-scarily-named Skynet 5 constellation ... "

    Er, apples and oranges.

  8. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Special Projects Bureau

    if Lester was around, he'd put together one with a RasberryPi and a telescope from Maplns and still had change from a million pounds.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Special Projects Bureau

      Buying something from Maplin and having change from a million quid? Not likely...

  9. Chris G

    Hmm Skynet

    Need a hand with that?

  10. Pangasinan Philippines

    sun-synchronous orbit

    So the pictures/video will always capture images at the same time each day?

    Our targets will need to know when to hide the missile launchers.

    At least until the constellation is complete.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: sun-synchronous orbit

      You can't quite do one spot each day. This is in a 90minute orbit, so gets 18 slices of the Earth each day.

      Since it only images a 5km wide swath you don't get very complete coverage - basically you get 5km wide lines 2000km apart. You can slowly precess the orbit so that you can fill in the coverage over any spot but that takes a while

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: sun-synchronous orbit

        "basically you get 5km wide lines 2000km apart"

        The numbers: the Earth's circumference of 40000 km (plus ~7-75km - a little bit) / 5 km swath width = 8000 swaths. Five satellites means 1600 swaths per sat, or 1600 orbits per sat, to cover the equator. If the orbital period is 90 minutes then we're looking at 1600 orbits * 90 minutes per orbit = 144000 minutes = 2400 hours = 100 days (to cover the equator).

        (if there's a bad in that maths, I can't see it, but welcome corrections - I'd sooner be right than wrong)

        However, each satellite, in its Sun-synchronous orbit, which is nearly polar, is covering a 'gore' of the Earth's surface which, whilst being 8000 km wide at the equator, narrows as you move further north and south, which means you can get more frequent coverage; in a polar orbit, where the satellites passed directly over the poles, one would be passing overhead every 18 minutes.

        Fwiw, at 60 deg north or south, the circumference, and thus the gore width, is half that of the equator.

        But yes, this is the most important limitation of the system. I can't see them having a significant cross-range capability either, so once they're up they're not going to change their orbits by very much, making their overflights predictable - it should be easy to avoid being observed by them.

        The live video feature would seem to have limited utility too. It would appear, from the article, that it "can collect 50fps imagery in two-minute bursts." which, presumably might also give you 25fps x 4 min. Such a narrow window of observation means that the people you want to observe would have to deliberately schedule their operations and move to the right place to allow you to observe them.

        The MOD's claim that they'll provide an "ability to surveil particular locations and pick up physical changes at short notice" doesn't seem plausible.

        I reckon they'd bet very useful indeed, for high-res mapping and scientific research though.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: sun-synchronous orbit

          "it should be easy to avoid being observed by them."

          Maybe. It depends what you are doing. If the UK MoD is interested, there's a good chance others are too, possibly a data share with the other 5 eyes would give more frequent coverage and if there's that level of interest, then probably everyone with an interest is watching too, even of not sharing with each other.

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. JJKing

    Re: Hmm Skynet

    Need a hand with that?

    Um, thanks but not yet that I'm self aware.

    Mine's the one with the T1000 label on the collar.

  13. JCitizen

    Go Pro in SPAAAAACE!

    Literally taken off the shelf - CHEAP!!!

  14. Lotaresco

    If only...

    If only there were some technology we could adopt that would make it difficult to see us from space.

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