Discussions are under way with several countries interested in buying versions of the UK's Topsat low-cost photographic satellite now in development, says QinetiQ, one of the consortium members behind the project.

The prototype Topsat is due to go into orbit in early 2004, "almost certainly on a Russian launcher", Richard Blott, QinetiQ's channel manager, space industry said at the show.


The project, costing around £14 million ($21 million), covers construction of the 120kg (265 lb) satellite, launch and six months of operation in orbit and is designed to test the operational viability of such satellites.

Two UK government departments – defence and trade and industry – are funding the programme. Whereas previous satellites have downloaded images to a central processing location, which has then distributed the images to end-users, Topsat will be used to test the benefits of downloading images direct to end-users at short notice.

These could be military commanders seeking pictures of the battlefield or civilian authorities handling an emergency such as flooding.

Picture resolution from the satellite's camera will be around 2.5m (8ft), good enough to see individual vehicles, although an order of magnitude not as good as top-of-the-range military reconnaissance satellites. "The rationale behind this is to see what would be the least good resolution we could tolerate" to achieve useful images, says Blott.

Source: Flight Daily News