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Glasgow-Built Satellites to Track Shipping Logistics Using AI

David Paul



The nanosatellites will be used to monitor shipping movements after launching later this month on Russian and Indian rockets.

The UK Space Agency (UKSA) and European Space Agency (ESA) are preparing to launch two Glasgow-built nanosatellites to help track global shipping movements.

The supercomputing satellite project is backed by £6 million of funding from the British Government.

The first set of two shoebox-sized satellites will launch from a Russian Soyuz rocket on 24th September, with the second two scheduled to take off from an Indian PSLV rocket on November 1st.

Satellite-powered data company Spire Global is producing the satellites, which use machine learning algorithms to predict shipping movements and estimate vessel arrival time to ports.

Chief executive and co-founder of Spire Global, Peter Platzer, commented on the launch: “Spire is all about helping our customers know what is next, so they can make better decisions.

“This month we are moving this forward by launching a true supercomputer into orbit so that we can analyse data right in orbit, using smart algorithms and machine learning.

“This will allow us to get better, smarter and faster analytics to our customers for their business decisions.”

Spire are specialists in developing and deploying automatic identification systems aboard ships which enables staff on the ground to pick up the identity, location, and speed of various ships on the oceans.

The satellites will become four of 100 objects currently orbiting earth transmitting similar data.

Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UKSA, said: “Nanosatellites weigh less than a piece of cabin luggage, but are enormously powerful in what they can do.

“These four Spire satellites are aimed at making trade hyper-accurate, with technology that makes business more cost-effective and efficient.

“Scotland’s space sector is booming. Our membership of ESA is benefiting companies across the UK, and we are committed to supporting the space economy in every region.”


Work on the project has progressed with support from the UKSA despite the pandemic. The organisation has been working alongside the ESA on the project, as well as providing important financial support to small and medium-sized enterprises working in the space industry.

The latest news further cements Scotland’s role as a major player in the world’s space sector.

In May, Edinburgh based Skyrora successfully launched the UK’s first vertical static fire test in more than half a century. The tests were carried out on its Skylark-L rocket at Kildemorie Estate, near Alness and marked the first major launch since the famed Black Arrow programme of the 1960s.

The company also announced the building of a new rocket test facility in July, creating 170 jobs in manufacturing and operations, with roles ranging from mechanical engineering to electronics for avionics systems.

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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