UK-Australian space tech scheme to boost Pacific climate resilience

By on 06/11/2019
A computer-generated image of the NovaSAR-1 satellite, which is able to see through clouds. (Image courtesy SSTL).

The UK Space Agency and Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, have invited international partners to work with them on projects designed to deliver sustainable benefits to small island developing states in the Pacific.

The projects, to be delivered through the Department for International Development scheme UK aid, will use data collected by satellites to improve decision-making for disaster risk reduction, ocean monitoring, mangrove mapping and maritime management.

The work will build on systems already being used to help prevent and plan for disasters caused by rising sea levels and climate change.

“Space has a crucial and expanding role as a green technology, providing vital data on earth observation and climate conditions, which helps to predict the impact of climate change,” said UK science minister Chris Skidmore.

He cited Surrey Satellite Technology, which launched its NovaSAR-1 satellite last year with funding from the UK Space Agency, as an example of a company that has already made an impact in this area.

NovaSAR-1 uses Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) to provide images day and night and to see through cloud cover, making it particularly valuable for small island states in the Pacific which are frequently covered by clouds.

The final frontier

CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall added that CSIRO’s purpose is to “solve the greatest challenges using innovative science and technology, like addressing the impacts of a changing climate”. Through the project, he said, “we are aiming to use cutting-edge Earth observation technology to co-design projects with our Pacific Island neighbours focused on managing threats like natural disasters”. 

Both agencies said they would improve access to services based on radar satellite data for countries in the Pacific region that need them most.

The new partnership follows a statement of intent between the UK Space Agency and Australian Space Agency to establish a ‘Space Bridge’ to increase strategic collaboration and lay the foundations for swift negotiations for space-related opportunities under any potential future trading arrangements.

It is also part of a wider call for projects from the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP), with up to £8m (US$10.3m) in new funding available to support partnerships between UK space experts and developing countries designed to boost sustainable development through satellite-enabled services.

The call invites applications for projects to address the growing need for developing countries to build resilience to the effects of climate change. The aim is to help forge new partnerships with countries and understand their needs, ahead of a follow-on funding call that will support the development of operational capabilities.

Filling a space

“IPP is about developing trusted partnerships across government, industry, academia and local communities,” said Chris Lee, the UK Space Agency’s chief scientist and head of sustainable development. “Our projects make real and practical differences to the lives of citizens, building skills and expertise across the partnership.

“Our own economy gains more than £2 for every £1 invested in these projects, and I’m delighted that we continue to foster space-enabled capacity and services for countries that need them most.”  

IPP is currently supporting projects in 44 countries, tackling challenges including deforestation, food security and disaster resilience.”

One of these projects, led by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research with support from UK partners including the Satellite Applications Catapult and the Met Office, is using satellite remote sensing technology to build climate resilience and enhance decision-making for government teams in Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.  

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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