British start-up Satellite Vu has successfully launched a groundbreaking satellite named HotSat-1, designed to map the heat signatures of buildings.
The aim is to identify energy-inefficient dwellings that could benefit from improved insulation.
With an infrared sensor developed through funding from UK and European space agencies, HotSat-1 was launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base. Operating at an altitude of 500km (311 miles), the satellite can detect individual rooftops and walls.
The United Kingdom currently possesses one of Europe’s most inefficient housing stocks, largely consisting of buildings constructed before 1970.
Retrofitting these properties reduces household fuel costs and contributes to the country’s ambition of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
Anthony Baker, CEO of Satellite Vu, emphasized the challenge local authorities and utilities face in determining where to allocate grant money for insulation improvements. HotSat-1’s data will address this challenge by swiftly identifying the 20% worst-performing buildings, ensuring the effectiveness of upgrades.
Satellite Vu plans to establish a constellation of eight satellites, acting as ‘thermometers in the sky.’
The company has already secured £100 million in pre-launch commitments from users intending to utilize the thermal data for various purposes, both domestically and internationally.
Beyond analyzing building heat profiles, HotSat-1 will assist in identifying urban heat island effect contributors, such as large retail center car parks that elevate city temperatures. This data will aid urban planners in identifying optimal locations for planting trees to mitigate heat.
The satellite’s information will also be valuable to the financial, insurance, and military sectors, enabling the analysis of temperature variations over time.
Examining heat signatures makes it possible to estimate the output and type of activities taking place in a factory.
Pollution monitoring applications can be employed, as changes in river water temperature may indicate anomalies such as industrial discharges.
Ordnance Survey (OS), the UK’s national mapping agency, will gain early access to HotSat-1’s data. OS has already conducted a trial using the sensor on an aircraft over the London Borough of Ealing, providing insights into the upcoming satellite data.
Donna Lyndsay from OS noted that while Earth observation data can be complex, incorporating it into maps makes it easily understandable to the public. OS plans to combine Satellite Vu’s data with its own intelligence and test it on its customers.
Manufactured by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, HotSat-1 is based on the cost-effective Carbonite bus, named after the substance in the movie The Empire Strikes Back.
The project has progressed rapidly, with satellite modules integrated as recently as January/February. The team is currently manufacturing a second satellite for launch next year, hoping to launch an additional six satellites in the future.