Pioneering low-cost Earth observation satellite
The AstroSAR-Lite satellite, pioneered by Airbus Defence and Space, provides an innovative, agile, affordable space Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) system focused to provide unprecedented revisit and coverage with high resolution for the regional user in the tropics and sub-tropics. AstroSAR-Lite is optimised to maritime, environmental, security and disaster monitoring applications.
The baseline satellite operates in various modes to obtain images ranging from 10 km x 1,000 km at three-metre resolution, up to 100 km x 1,000 km at 20–30 metre resolutions over the ‘footprints’ of each of several regional users.
Thanks to its radical design, AstroSAR-Lite can be accommodated on very small launch vehicles. AstroSAR-Lite is built around Airbus Defence and Space's Snapdragon configuration for SAR satellites which provides a platform that can carry a large planar phased array antenna, twice the stowed satellite length.
Mechanical steering of the whole satellite provides major beam pointing of ±45°, enabling access to both left and right sides, augmenting and simplifying the electronic beam steering thus minimising cost of the expensive TR modules that are typical of other active phased array systems.
Under a new initiative, AstroSAR-Lite customers have the option to join the AstroSAR Lite Club – a shared constellation – effectively securing the use of several satellites for the price of one.
AstroSAR-Lite builds on a wide heritage of Airbus Defence and Space SAR satellites and instruments, such as TerraSAR-X, launched in 2007, or an X-band radar instrument proven and flown over the last three years on an airborne demonstrator (providing submetric quad polar imagery). Active SAR antenna systems as well as instrument electronics are modular in frequency and have been space qualified for RadarSat-2.