DOST-ASTI, SSTL sign capacity-sharing agreement for NovaSAR-1 satellite

12 Nov 2019 12:47 PM

09 August 2019, Q.C. Ph -- The Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has signed an agreement with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) for the Philippines’ share of the data tasking and acquisition services of NovaSAR-1, an innovative small S-Band radar satellite launched into a 580km sun-synchronous orbit in September 2018. The DOST-ASTI, acting as the lead agency acting on behalf of the Philippine government, undertakes the engagement through the “Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Automatic Identification System (AIS) for Innovative Terrestrial Monitoring and Maritime Surveillance (SAR with AIS)” project-- directed research and development initiative with funding from the DOST Grants-in-Aid (GIA).

Left to Right: DOST-ASTI Representatives Mr. Alvin E. Retamar (SAR with AIS Project Leader), Dr. Joel Joseph S. Marciano, Jr. (Acting Director), and SSTL Representatives Atty. Melissa Velarde (ACCRA Law) and Mr. Juha Pekka-Hoikka (Airbus Defence and Space UK) present at the NovaSAR-1 Capacity Sharing Agreement Signing at the DOST-ASTI, Quezon City, Philippines.

The NovaSAR-1 satellite was designed and built by SSTL, with the SAR payload by Airbus United Kingdom (UK) and the AIS Receiver by Honeywell Aerospace. The earth-observation satellite has multiple features conducive for the Philippines’ atmospheric and climatic conditions. Its SAR capability enables it to acquire earth observation data through cloud cover and detect marine structures such as marine vessels and aquaculture systems. The AIS Receiver allows the satellite to collect ship information across the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Sample images of various targets in the Philippines have been acquired as part of the initial characterization of the satellite. Below is a photo of Cebu City, Philippines, showing areas of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport and visible marine vessels at a specific port, as captured by the NovaSAR-1 satellite.

NovaSAR image capture on Cebu City (10.3038N, 123.9075E) including Mactan Airport with 20 meters resolution, taken December 07, 2018 09:47 AM PHT. NovaSAR image copyright © 2018 SSTL.

Andrew Cawthorne, Director of Earth Observation at SSTL, said that he is delighted to welcome DOST-ASTI colleagues to the NovaSAR-1 data team. He anticipates that the Philippines will benefit greatly from NovaSAR-1 data, particularly as the country has a tropical climate with frequent cloud cover, and an extensive coastline and maritime territory.

The Philippines’ DOST-ASTI joins the following other mission partners already under contract for NovaSAR-1 data: the UK Space Agency, Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

The agreement will allow the Philippines to access the NovaSAR-1 satellite until the lifespan of the spacecraft. NovaSAR-1 is intended to provide relevant data on land and aquatic resources in support of the country’s requirements for enhanced monitoring of maritime and agricultural environments, infrastructure identification and other beneficial applications.

Access to the SAR imaging capability of NovaSAR-1 is a timely and powerful resource for our country as we continue to push scientific data and computing in support of evidence-based policies and decision-making”, says Dr. Joel S. Marciano, Jr., Acting Director of the DOST-ASTI. “For one, NovaSAR-1’s simultaneous acquisition of SAR and Automatic Identification System (AIS) data targets enhanced maritime domain awareness that is expected to lead to more effective interventions,” added Mr. Alvin Retamar, Chief Science Research Specialist at the DOST-ASTI.

The “SAR with AIS” project is being implemented by the DOST in response to coordinated inputs from various local stakeholders, including government agencies in the Philippines such as the National Coast Watch System (NCWS), the National Security Council (NSC), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA).

The DOST-ASTI will serve as a hub for the SAR with AIS project activities in the country. In particular, data from the NovaSAR-1 satellite will be received through the Philippine Earth Data Resource and Observation (PEDRO) Center while the secure storage and archiving of the data will be housed in the Computing and Archiving Research Environment (CoARE). The data processing and analysis will be spearheaded by the researchers from the PEDRO Center and the Remote Sensing and Data Science (DATOS) Help Desk, which will utilize the High Performance Computing (HPC) resources available at the CoARE. DOST-ASTI will also undertake knowhow transfer and training on the utilization of the data for partners in government agencies and academia in the Philippines.

The SAR with AIS project is another initiative that exemplifies the increasing relevance and usefulness of space technology in the Philippines”, added Dr. Marciano, “and the DATOS, PEDRO, CoARE are part of the local science infrastructure and resources for data and computing that the DOST-ASTI has built over the years, and which continue to be put to good use for the country," he ended.


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