LONDON, March 1 (Xinhua) -- Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF) has launched its first ever satellite into space, it was announced Thursday.
The ambitious program could eventually see high-tech satellites beaming video directly into the cockpit of RAF warplanes, improving the situational awareness of British pilots by giving them the very best imagery and information anywhere on earth in real-time.
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, made the announcement Thursday to mark the successful launch and operation of the satellite at Surrey Satellite Technology in Guildford, the company behind the technology.
Hillier announced the RAF's role in the launch and operation of a demonstrator satellite. Now in orbit, the Carbonite-2 offers sovereign, full-motion color video from space for the RAF for the first time.
The RAF has been working with the Ministry of Defense's (MOD) Chief Scientific Advisor, Defense Science and Technology Laboratory and UK industry on the program to deliver high-quality imagery and 3D video footage from space. The first satellite of its kind, the Carbonite-2 has completed its initial checks and is now supplying detailed imagery and footage.
Speaking at the launch event, Hillier said: "This satellite will not only expand further the RAF's growing Air and Space capabilities, it will I hope also be an inspiration to those young people looking towards technology as a way to realize their potential."
Government Defense Minister Guto Bebb said: "We live in an increasingly dangerous world and satellite technology like this give our armed forces the extra advantage of quick video surveillance to keep us safe from a range of future threats, whether that's an airborne terror attack or a troop of tanks closing in on a foreign border."
The MOD has invested 6.2 million U.S. dollars into the program with Surrey Satellite Technology eight months ago, and the satellite was successfully launched from Sriharikhota in India. The 1000 kg spacecraft, roughly the size of an average household washing machine, carries an off-the-shelf telescope and HD video camera. The imaging system is designed to deliver high-resolution images and color HD video clips with a swath width of 5 km.
MOD chief scientific advisor, Prof. Hugh Durrant-Whyte said: "MOD's science community is one of the driving forces of the UK's space revolution; and this is an excellent example of defense science and technology working with industry and the Royal Air Force to deliver affordable and pioneering space technology quickly for our armed forces."