skip to Main Content

BAE Systems set to launch LEO satellite cluster for space surveillance

UK company BAE Systems is set to launch a multi-sensor satellite cluster into low Earth orbit in 2024 to deliver high-quality information and intelligence in real time from space to military customers. Known as AzaleaTM, the group of four satellites will use a range of optical, RF and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) sensors to collect visual, radar and radio frequency (RF) data. This will be analysed by on board machine learning on edge processors to deliver the resulting intelligence securely, anywhere in the world while still in orbit.

BAE Systems acquired fellow UK company In-Space Missions, the developer of Azalea, last year top become one of a small number of British companies with the capability to design, build, launch and operate satellites. AzaleaTM will boost the UK’s ability to understand the threats and hazards in, from and through space.

The AzaleaTM satellites will gather, analyse and communicate SAR, optical and RF data and deliver timely, actionable intelligence, essential for military operations and disaster response. Unlike conventional, single-purpose satellites, the cluster can be fully reconfigured whilst in orbit in the same way a smartphone installs a new app; this ensures it can deliver future customer missions and expands the lifecycle of the satellites.

Existing space-based sensors require multiple terabytes of data to be transferred to Earth before being processed and distributed. The traditional transfer process can take many hours and is reliant on intermittent RF links and the availability of suitable ground stations. The AzaleaTM system saves valuable time by combining and analysing data in space. It will be able to identify activities of interest and directly communicate with users on the ground within moments of detection – securely delivering assured data, in a useful timeframe, directly to the hands of decision makers.

The expertise brought by In-Space Missions complements BAE Systems’s existing advanced technologies and will become an integral part of its multi-domain capability.

The programme supports the UK Government’s Defence Space Strategy, published earlier this year, which named Earth Observation as a priority area to help protect and defend UK interests, a sovereign capability which AzaleaTM could provide.

BAE Systems is also working with Finnish firm, ICEYE, to combine its own expertise in sensor technology with ICEYE’s advanced SAR technology to be included in the cluster. SAR provides high-resolution imagery of the Earth’s surface, day or night and in any weather conditions. This persistent monitoring makes it easier to detect instant physical changes, such as the movement of hostile ships or aircraft or the location of people at risk during natural disasters, such as floods and forest fires.

Back To Top