Developed by BAE Systems, each group of four “Azalea™” satellites is capable of recording visual, radar and radio frequency data through its varied sensor array. Onboard artificial intelligence will analyze this information to produce timely and accurate intelligence that can then be communicated to receivers on the ground in real time. In this way, the configuration avoids the delays involved in conventional space sensors, which require several terabytes of data to be transmitted to Earth before it can be processed – the transfer process often taking several hours.
Additionally, BAE Systems said: “Unlike conventional single-use satellites, the cluster can be fully reconfigured in orbit much like a smartphone installs a new app.
“This ensures it can deliver future customer missions and extends the life cycle of the satellites.”
Dave Armstrong is group managing director at BAE Systems Digital Intelligence, a new wing of the company specializing in collecting, connecting and understanding complex data.
Mr. Armstrong said, “The Azalea™ satellite cluster will process data in space to deliver swathes of digital intelligence wherever it is needed.
“We understand the importance of space intelligence in every domain, whether it is informing strategic command, modifying a warship in the area, or providing real-time intelligence to ground forces.
“The launch of Azalea™ in 2024 will be a major step forward for the UK’s sovereign space capability.”
The space cluster, BAE Systems added, “will also enhance the UK’s ability to understand threats and hazards in, from and through space”.
In this way, the program will support the Government’s Defense Space Strategy, released earlier this year, which identified Earth observation capabilities as a priority to help protect and advance UK national interests.
Last year, BAE Systems acquired UK satellite company In-Space Missions, making it one of the few UK companies capable of designing, building, launching and operating satellites.
BAE Systems said, “The expertise brought by In-Space Missions complements the company’s existing advanced technologies and will become an integral part of its multi-domain capability.
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ICEYE CEO and Co-Founder Rafal Modrzewski said, “ICEYE helps solve problems using data. There is a clear benefit for governments and organizations to receive accurate information when they need it, regardless of weather conditions – that’s what we deliver.
“By combining our SAR technology with the safety expertise of BAE Systems and other cluster data sources, we can help decision makers make the right choice at the right time.”
Doug Liddle, CEO and Co-Founder of In-Space Missions, added, “We are working together to create a step change in military intelligence and capabilities.
“Our technology will monitor adversaries, but also provide substantial civilian benefits by assisting humanitarian response missions.”