TopSat image: Mount Fuji

17 Apr 2007

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Reproduced images should include the credit: "Courtesy of the TopSat Consortium, copyright QinetiQ".

TopSat, the micro-satellite designed and built by a QinetiQ-led consortium of British firms captured this image of Mount Fuji.

Mount Fuji (Fujisan), at 3776 metres, is Japan's highest mountain and one of the country's national symbols. The nearly perfectly shaped volcano has been worshipped as a sacred mountain and represents a huge tourist attraction for visitors to Japan. It straddles the boundary of Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures just west of Tokyo, from where it can be seen on a clear day.

Mount Fuji is a dormant volcano which most recently erupted in 1708. The mountain lies near to the Tokai fault, where the Philippine Sea plate slips under the Eurasian plate at the rate of a few centimetres a year. Concern has been expressed in recent years about a possible relationship between volcanic activity at Mount Fuji and earthquakes.

TopSat was designed and built by a consortium of British companies led by QinetiQ, whose role included systems design and technical authority, provision of payload electronics units, operations management and the data reception element of the ground segment. Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) developed and manufactured the satellite platform and was responsible for the integration of the payload testing, arranging the launch at Cosmos, and commissioning the satellite platform in orbit through their satellite control station. Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) designed and manufactured the satellite's sophisticated off-axis camera and Infoterra is marketing TopSat image products, having processed the data to recognised ortho- and geo-rectification standards.

The 5-year TopSat programme was jointly funded by the British National Space Centre (BNSC) and the UK Ministry of Defence at a mission cost below £14m. The satellite was successfully launched into a 700 km sunsynchronous orbit from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in Northern Russia on 27 October 2005 using a Cosmos launch vehicle.

TopSat weighs just 120 kg, but carries an optical camera capable of delivering panchromatic images with a spatial resolution at nadir of 2.8 metres covering a 17x17 km area, and simultaneous three-band multi-spectral images, (red, green, blue), with a resolution of 5.6 metres. This is thought to represent the best resolution per mass of any satellite launched to date. This camera is integrated with an agile micro-satellite platform to permit pitch compensation manoeuvres, allowing imaging of low illumination scenes.

In the future, a constellation of three or four TopSat satellites could image almost any point on the Earth at least once a day, subject to cloud conditions, further opening up the potential for quick response imagery which is extremely cost effective to deliver.

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TopSat image: Mount Fuji