Glasgow Satellite Capital of Britain
Glasgow reinvents itself to become the capital of Britainâ€™s satellite-building industry.
18:49 14 May 2018
Glasgow has become the unlikely capital of Britain’s satellite-building industry as it now makes more satellites than any other city outside the United States.
After Scotland’s first satellite was launched about four years ago, Alba Orbital and Spire Global have started building satellites and now have 100 satellites in orbit.
Satellites used to cost quite a lot to build and they cost much more to launch. They also used to be as large as a bus and take about 15 years to design. However, it is now possible to build nano-sats these days, which can be built in weeks or months at a fraction of the cost of their older cousins. Their lifespan is two years before they drop out of their very low Earth orbit and burn up in the atmosphere.
Joel Spark, the company's co-chief technology officer, said that the nano-satellites are intentionally designed that way.
"The whole point is to launch and replace," he said.
"We change our phones every two years. Why would you want a space craft that old?"
Spire now has 78 nano-sats in orbit that monitor radio signals from ships. This allows the company to track 75,000 vessels a day, making it possible to spot illegal fishing, watch out for piracy, and trade on commodities before a cargo ship has even reach the port.