A novel UK satellite has returned its first pictures of heat variations across the surface of the Earth.
HotSat-1 carries the highest resolution commercial thermal sensor in orbit, enabling it to trace hot and cold features as small as 3.5m across.
In the initial imagery, a Chicago train is observed moving through the night and the flame fronts of Canadian wildfires are precisely mapped.
London operator SatVu plans to launch seven additional spacecraft.
This will increase the volume of data it can acquire but also reduce the time between passes over particular locations, meaning changes in a scene can be detected more rapidly.
HotSat-1, with its mid-wave infrared camera, was assembled by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) in Guildford and launched in June on a SpaceX rocket flying out of California.
The spacecraft manufacturer is due to complete its in-orbit testing and commissioning phase in the next week.
“At that point ‘we get the keys’, so to speak, and we’ll then be able to task the satellite ourselves and get the data down for our customers,” Tobias Reinicke, the chief technology officer at SatVu, told BBC News.
They’ll permit urban planners, for example, to see roof tops and walls.
This will enable them to understand the temperature profiles of individual buildings, offices and factories. It’s information that can identify infrastructure that’s wasting energy and is in need of better insulation.