Glasgow-made satellites successfully launched aboard the SpaceX Transporter-8 mission

14/06/2023
Spire satellite optical-inter-satellite link front view

YESTERDAY night, Spire (a global provider of space-based data, analytics, and space services with offices in Glasgow) successfully launched 3 satellites aboard the SpaceX Transporter-8 mission.

The two Glasgow-made satellites are carrying their latest technology: optical inter-satellite links. This game-changing advancement in satellite communication will reduce data latency in space communication and strengthen security, enabling satellites to communicate via optical link while up to 5,000 km apart.

Spire is one of the first to successfully qualify, demonstrate and operationalise optical inter-satellite link technology on a nanosatellite. The optical communications terminals developed by Spire — the smallest on the market — allow for the creation of optical links between satellites that enhance link speeds, security and resiliency to interference.

The technology development was funded partially by the European Space Agency and the UK Space Agency.

Aboard Transporter-8, Spire also launched FOREST-2, the second 6U satellite developed and launched for OroraTech, the global industry leader in space-based thermal intelligence. This 6U satellite carries a proprietary thermal-infrared optical payload to detect and monitor wildfires across the globe.

The launch of the satellites follows an in-orbit technology demonstration where Spire successfully demonstrated its ability to transmit and detect optical signals between two of its 3U satellites.

“We are celebrating the culmination of more than three years of work in creating one of the most complex systems from both the hardware and mission perspectives. The use of optical links instead of traditional links leads to higher resiliency to interference, higher security, and higher efficiency,” said Jeroen Cappaert, Spire chief technology officer and co-founder. “We are one of the first to successfully qualify and demonstrate this technology in our satellite size and weight class – our part in a growing trend, as the space industry is moving to optical links as the backbone for sending data.”

The technology development was funded partially through the European Space Agency (ESA) Advanced Research in Telecommunications Services (ARTES) Pioneer Programme and the UK Space Agency (UKSA).  

“The successful launch of these two Glasgow-made satellites from Spire Global marks a milestone, not just for the company, but for how we look at intersatellite communications and make these technologies more efficient,” said Craig Brown, Director of Investment at the UK Space Agency. “The UK Space Agency provided £2.9 million towards the project, which includes five satellites across three launches, through the European Space Agency’s ARTES Pioneer Programme, dedicated to supporting new commercial opportunities in the telecommunications sector. We look forward to following the next steps of Spire Global’s journey and seeing the results.”

In addition to reducing the time to downlink data for Spire’s maritime, aviation and weather data solutions, the OISL payloads can also be leveraged by Spire Space Services customers as a fast and secure communications system.   

Aboard Transporter-8, Spire also launched FOREST-2, a 6U satellite carrying a proprietary thermal-infrared optical payload and data processing unit for OroraTech. Following FOREST-1, this is the second satellite that Spire Space Services has developed and launched for OroraTech, the global industry leader in space-based thermal intelligence, to detect and monitor wildfires across the globe. FOREST-2 features higher resolution, upgraded processing and two times the swath of thermal imaging to be gathered from space than its predecessor.

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