"The time was right. It was becoming clear to me that the commercialisation of space was ready to take off. Putting satellites up is an expensive business and space agencies were reaching out to commercial interests to create new funding streams," says Astrosat Founder and CEO Steve Lee.
The Edinburgh-based company in the United Kingdom (U.K.), which merges satellite and ground-based data to provide valuable information to a wide range of sectors, has a thriving earth observation and satellite communications business, according to a company spokesperson. It has transformed the way space-based information can be used to bring previously unattainable benefits, he says.
The company has won bids for spacecraft systems, the systems and instruments a spacecraft must carry depending upon the data it will gather and the functions it will carry out. Their complexity varies greatly but all must endure the hostile environment of space.
Astrosat Founder and CEO Steve Lee and Chief Technology Officer Alan McLarney believe the new venture has the potential to build substantially on this year's projected turnover of £750,000, more than 60 percent more than last year. Astrosat stands for Astro Science and Technology.
What differentiates Astrosat is that it takes data from various satellites and libraries and merges it with data mined from earth-based resources. One of these is a land vehicle, similar to the Google Earth camera cars, which can collect specific data at particular points of interest in various spectral bands beyond the visible.
Astrosat's technology can tell the aquaculture industry where to find fish farming sites with the necessary flows of water; it can track back oil spills, which are clearly visible from space, to help trace the culprits; and it can predict landslides using radar satellites, potentially saving huge disruptions to road and rail networks.
In order to be compliant in bids within the European Space Agency (ESA) and other governmental bodies with which it deals, the company has taken on its own retained in-house lawyer.
Lee paid tribute to other pioneering U.K. space companies, such as cube and nano-satellite company Clyde Space and Bright Ascension whose in-orbit UKUBE-1 satellite (designed and built in Scotland) had great success as UK Space Agency's first cubesat mission.
"There is a great camaraderie in the space community, and a genuine satisfaction in each other's achievements. Our sustained home-grown space agency would create much greater access to space and it should be strongly encouraged,” Lee adds. "The U.K. government has taken significant steps to reinvigorate the U.K. space industry and its appreciation of the commercial possibilities is driving innovation and enterprise which I think will be of long-term benefit."
Lee’s ambition is "to be the Bell Labs [the historic R&D facilities which are the hallmark of invention] of space," he says. "I want to build an industry."