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Digital Battlespace

Hyperspectral payloads will enhance ISR

12th May 2021 - 08:00 GMT | by Andrew White in London

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HyperSat platform in the lab. (Photo: HyperSat)

A constellation of six LEO satellites should support the intelligence-gathering requirements of joint forces conducting multi-domain operations around the world.

QinetiQ signed a design phase contract last month with HyperSat to study the development of a mini-constellation of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites equipped with a hyperspectral payload.

The agreement supports plans by HyperSat to launch a constellation of six LEO satellites into space over the course of 2023.

In a 21 April statement, QinetiQ described how such a constellation is designed to produce ‘greater information about the material properties on Earth than any current capability in orbit’.

QinetiQ will lead a consortium of SMEs in the US including Redwire, Millennium Engineering and Integration and Brandywine Photonics. Satellites will be launched by Virgin Orbit.

Hyperspectral services will be made available to both commercial and government customers. In terms of the support of armed forces, hyperspectral sensors will support the intelligence-gathering requirements of joint forces conducting multi-domain operations worldwide. 

Each satellite will feature a high-resolution hyperspectral imaging sensor capable of collecting intelligence from across the full electromagnetic spectrum (visible light to long-wave IR) which will help armed forces to find, identify and detect objects of interest.

‘This enables the identification of items in an image with superb precision, [such as] a camouflaged vehicle. That level of information allows users to make informed decisions only dreamed of in the past,’ QinetiQ explained in its statement.

Scheduled to be launched ‘early’ in 2023, the first LEO satellite hyperspectral payload will monitor 500 spectral bands across the visible to shortwave IR region with a ground sample distance of 6m, QinetiQ officials highlighted.

The following five LEO satellites will offer short-wave to long-wave hyperspectral imaging, providing high-spatial and high-spectrum pixel resolution to armed forces and other government agencies as well as commercial customers.

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