23 Aug 2018

British built laser spacecraft launched into orbit

A British-built satellite equipped with a 3.4-Kilowatt laser, as powerful as 840 lightbulbs, has been launched into space.

Flying at 200 miles above the surface of the Earth, the powerful laser on the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Aeolus spacecraft will beam down into the atmosphere and measure wind speeds.

This represents a completely new approach that could potentially revolutionise the accuracy of weather forecasting, helping to protect people from disasters like floods and hurricanes across the world.

The spacecraft was built by Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage, with other British businesses providing critical elements to the mission, including a camera, software and propulsion systems.

Science Minister Sam Gyimah said: “The Aeolus mission is a great example of the potential real-world impacts that space can have on Earth. Its data will lead to more reliable weather forecasts that can be used by farmers, seafarers, construction workers and others to improve productivity and safety.

“Space is a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy and it is work like this that shows how vital our role in the European Space Agency is in bringing real benefits to UK companies.”

Aeolus is the fifth of ESA’s Earth Explorer missions, which address critical Earth science issues, focusing on innovative missions and leading-edge technologies that deliver scientific excellence.

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