The Cornish are taking to space to catch pirates.
A satellite that will track ships to combat terrorism, smuggling and piracy is to be blasted into orbit from the West Country.
The hi-tech device will be aboard the first ever space launch from British – and European – soil this summer.
A modified Boeing 747-400 named Cosmic Girl is due to take off from Cornwall Airport Newquay, Britain’s first operational spaceport, with a Virgin Orbit rocket under one wing.
It will pinpoint pirates globally who are trying to remain ‘dark’ and warn neighbouring targets by picking up a variety of signals emitted by ships, including radio frequencies, mobile and satellite phone signals and radar.
An official stated: “The data will be used by governments to provide information on the tracking and prevention of illegal fishing, smuggling, trafficking, piracy and terrorism.”
It means spooks can track ships that are trying to remain hidden by “going dark” and switching off their transmitters, a tactic used by oil tankers trying to break embargoes, fishing vessels in forbidden waters, drug smugglers, human traffickers and even warships.
Dan Hart, the chief executive of Virgin Orbit, said: “We believe tracking shipping from space is vital to keeping the seas safe and that Amber-1 is a key technology that will aid this endeavour.”
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The only other satellite confirmed for the launch is the first Omani satellite, which will launch into deep space to collect data on climate change and natural disasters.
The satellite was created in a partnership between Satellite Applications Catapult, a company based in Didcot, Oxfordshire, and Horizon Technologies, a British firm specialising in the monitoring of satellite phones.
Catapult’s Lucy Edge said: “This launch is a huge milestone for the space sector in the UK.
“This summer the UK completes its end-to-end ecosystem enabling companies to design, build, launch and operate their spacecraft all from one place.”
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