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Take-off for UK-built supercomputer nanosatellites

Spire Global UK’s four nano satellites will help track and predict ship movements. Photo: Spire Global UK

Four UK government-backed nanosatellites were placed into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) on 28 September aboard a Soyuz launcher. The nanosatellites were built in Glasgow by Scottish firm Spire Global UK and have joined a fleet of nearly 100 objects in low Earth orbit that monitor shipping movements, helping predict global trade and making business more cost effective and efficient.

Two of the Spire nanosatellites have an onboard supercomputer and intelligent machine-learning algorithms that can provide hyper-accurate predictions of the locations of boats, track their whereabouts and calculate their arrival times at ports, allowing port businesses and authorities to manage busy docks safely.

The other two Spire satellites will be used to forge inter-satellite links. These connections allow satellites to act as relays, sending data to one another and down to ground stations, which cuts the time between data collection and its delivery.

The nanosatellites are backed by over £10 million of investment from the UK Space Agency.

The market for nano and cube satellites is growing rapidly. A total of 292 of the spacecraft were launched into space in 2017, compared with 55 in 2016.

The Spire Global UK satellites were developed under a European Space Agency (ESA) Pioneer programme, which is a partnership project co-funded by the UK Space Agency. The UK?remains a leading member of ESA, which is independent of the EU.

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