A pilot project using satellites to monitor the movement of sensitive nuclear materials and make sure they are not diverted to military or terrorist uses has been launched. It involves the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) working with the European Space Agency (ESA) to use satellite capacity leased from Paris-based commercial operator Eutelsat. It operates a global fleet of geostationary satellites orbiting around the Earth at an altitude of 36,000km. Their cameras will take images of materials on the move, with the data being handled and processed by ND SatCom, of Germany.
ESA is funding the €400,000 ($574,000) six-month pilot project, which will assess the feasibility and cost of using satellites to relay data from remote surveillance systems, without any land-based devices being used. “We believe that satellite communications could provide the IAEA with additional infrastructure capability for its ever-expanding remote monitoring network,” said Pierluigi Mancini, head of ESA’s telecommunication future programmes and applications division.