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This article was published on December 13, 2023

OpenCosmos launches new satellite for volcano and wildlife monitoring

ALISIO-1 will observe the Canary Islands


OpenCosmos launches new satellite for volcano and wildlife monitoring

Open Cosmos, the UK startup that uses satellites to fight climate change, has successfully launched its fourth satellite this year. Its mission? To monitor volcanic activity and wildfires in the Canary Islands.

Following its takeoff from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, onboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9, the satellite is now in its final orbit — and first contact with the ground has already been established.

Part of the ESA PIONEER Programme, the so-called ALISIO-1 (short for Advanced Land-Imaging Satellite for Infrared Observations) is a small 6U satellite, developed for the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands. Its aim is to transform Earth monitoring capabilities and optical communications from space.

The satellite’s primary payload is DRAGO-2, a compact uncooled camera operating in the Short-Wave Infrared (SWIR) range — which provides a viewpoint invisible to the human eye. It will provide precise observations of the area, crucial for applications such as volcano and wildlife monitoring, oil spill detection, and desertification control.

ALISIO-1 also carries an optical communications terminal for space-Earth communications. The technology is using laser beams to transmit data through the vacuum of space and the startup claims it offers two significant advantages compared to traditional radio-frequency methods: enhanced data transfer and increased security.

OpenCosmos ALISIO-1 satellite
ALISIO-1. Credit: OpenCosmos

“We have been able to digitalise many parts of the mission lifecycle process from design to test recording as well as operations,” said Florian Deconinck, VP for Growth at Open Cosmos. This, he added, is key to booster the company’s capability to deliver space missions faster, more affordably, and reliably.

“Our innovation combined with ESA’s expertise and guidance illustrates how NewSpace and legacy space can join forces to help address some of the biggest challenges,” Deconinck noted.

Other space colleagues of ALISIO-1 include Platero, which monitors the environmental impact of farming in Andalusia, and MANTIS, which produces high-res images of logistics, energy infrastructure, and natural resources.

Meanwhile, OpenCosmos is building a pathfinder satellite to help the UK join the Atlantic Constellation project. The startup raised an additional €50mn during its latest funding round in September.

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