TopSat Update: Transmitting
Britain’s TopSat micro-satellite and accompanying ground systems are part of a broader satellite R&D effort called MOSAIC. The satellite can deliver real time data and is engineered to provide 2.8 meter black & white/ 5 meter color resolution images at a much reduced cost compared to larger satellites. The programme has been jointly funded by the British National Space Centre (BNSC) and the UK Ministry of Defence at a mission cost below GBP 14 million.
The first high resolution images of the Earth transmitted by TopSat were received December 19, 2005 at QinetiQ’s West Freugh ground station. Regarding the image that accompanies this update…
QinetiQ’s release notes that the satellite image was acquired at 10:03am on Wednesday December 7, 2005. In the exapanded image, the morning traffic is clearly visible on the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge at the Dartford Crossing, UK. The image shows Thurrock and the Lakeside shopping centre in Essex to the north, and Greenhithe and the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent to the south. Ships are visible underway from the Thames estuary and alongside at the Tilbury docks to the east. TopSat imagery at nadir has a nominal 2.8m resolution in black and white and 5.7m in color. Of course, these images are not full quality as they were put in JPEG format to allow wide distribution.
The satellite ground station at West Freugh was built in 1991 to receive satellite radar imagery from the European Space Agency ERS-1 and ERS-2 satellites and was subsequently upgraded to receive imagery from the Canadian RADARSAT satellite in 1995. The station was further expanded in 1999 when QinetiQ’s meteorological satellite reception facility at Lasham, Hampshire, was relocated to West Freugh.