India’s space program launched 31 satellites into low-Earth orbit on Friday, one of which was an especially cool British satellite that can beam down full-color videos in never-before-seen quality.
Developed by the UK-based aerospace companies Earth-i and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, the CARBONITE-2 satellite weighs just 100 kilograms (220 pounds) and is armed with an Ultra High Definition (UHD) camera, able to capture high-resolution images and film two minutes of video of Earth-bound objects such as cars and ships.
"We can collect up to 50 frames per second which is a lot of information," Richard Blain, CEO of Earth-i, told BBC News. "That allows us to stack the individual images and increase our effective resolution, achieving somewhere around 65 centimeters to 75 centimeters [25 to 29 inches].”
This satellite is just the prototype of Earth-i’s upcoming satellite constellation program called the Vivid-i. This will consist of a fleet of 15 satellites orbiting around 500 kilometers (310 miles) above Earth, which will be launched in batches of five. This will allow them to have multiple satellites on the go and to revisit the same location multiple times per day. In theory, this data will also be able to download within minutes of getting snapped.
“The Vivid-i Constellation will provide capabilities we haven’t seen before including full-color video, and an assured stream of high-quality data from space to help improve both our planet and our lives on Earth,” Josef Aschbacher, director of Earth Observation Programmes at the European Space Agency (ESA), said in a statement.
The exact purpose of the constellation hasn't been divulged, although its data is likely to be used by private companies and government institutions for an array of Earth observation activities.
The Indian Space Research Organisation is becoming quite the master of low-cost rocket launches, with Friday’s launch being their 100th satellite launch. Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister, appeared to be particularly proud of the milestone, tweeting: “My heartiest congratulations to @isro and its scientists on the successful launch of PSLV today. This success in the New Year will bring benefits of the country's rapid strides in space technology to our citizens, farmers, fishermen etc.”
He added that their 100th satellite launch marks the country's "glorious achievements and also the bright future of India's space programme.”