A space firm is showcasing the first images captured by its radar satellite which was designed and built in the UK.

The images of the Great Pyramids and Sydney Harbour are the first to be released by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) since its satellites were launched in September.

On board the same rocket, the NovaSAR-1 radar satellite and the S1-4 high-definition optical satellite, both developed and manufactured by the firm, blasted off from a space centre in India.

Image: SSTL's satellites launched from India in September

Backed by a £21m government investment, the NovaSAR-1 can take images day or night, even through thick clouds.

This means it can monitor illegal logging in high, cloud-covered tropical rain forests, such as the Amazon. It is also capable of tracking floods and oil spills at sea.

Red and Bent Pyramids, Dashur. Pic: SSTL
Image: Red and Bent Pyramids, Dashur. Pic: SSTL

Back in September, Luis Gomes, SSTL's chief technology officer, told Sky News: "It takes advantage of the technology that is mandatory on large vessels to continuously broadcast their position, who they are and where they are going.

"And so what we do is we compare that information with the images that we get.

"So if you see a ship that is not broadcasting its signal, or some signal that corresponds to a ship that isn't there, then we can tell the local authorities and say to them, okay you should go and investigate."

Boats moored at Church Point Harbour. Pic: SSTL
Image: Boats moored at Church Point Harbour. Pic: SSTL

The images released by the company show how this is possible, displaying Sydney Harbour at night and capturing its famous bridge as well as boats moored in the waters close by.

Science and education minister Sam Gyimah visited SSTL in Guildford on Friday, saying: "Yet again we can see UK research and innovation that is truly out of this world.

"This 'eye in the sky' can capture an image a dozen times wider than the Strait of Dover and the data it provides can help crack problems from illegal shipping to alerting us to damaging pollution that needs to be countered."

The Great Pyramids of Giza. Pic: SSTL
Image: The Great Pyramids of Giza. Pic: SSTL

The other satellite, S1-4, is so powerful it can spot objects the size of small card tables from 360 miles up in space. Both are just part of a long-running story of British success at the leading edge of satellite technology.

Mr Gomes added: "UK space science is world-leading and with the support of the government and the support of companies and academic organisations, this is one of the world centres for satellite technology."

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