First launch at Scots spaceport to carry weather satellite
A series of 40 shoebox-sized satellites will be able to track natural disasters.
A project to launch 40 shoebox-sized satellites into space to track extreme weather patterns will be the first to use Scotland's planned spaceport.
US-based Orbital Micro Systems, working with Edinburgh University, will use the site in Sutherland to launch their satellites into orbit.
They will provide accurate weather information to a data centre.
In July, the remote peninsula of A'Mhoine was selected as the site of the UK's first launch site for carrying small satellites.
The International Centre for Earth Data (ICED) will be based at the university and aims to drastically improve the forecasting of extreme weather and natural disasters.
The constellation of 40 satellites will use microwave and infrared sensors to gather weather updates every 15 minutes.
It is hoped the commercially-available weather reports will help the agriculture, aviation and shipping sectors.
Information from the satellites will be analysed at Edinburgh University's Bayes Centre, a forthcoming hub for data science.
Professor Mark Parsons said: "Our expertise in data science means we are perfectly placed to support the sophisticated production of regular and reliable weather information for recipients around the world."
William Hosack, CEO of Orbital Micro Systems, said: "Output from the International Centre for Earth Data will impact the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world through applications relevant to everyday life - such as improved crop yields, safer route planning for flights and shipping, and better land management where forest fires, landslides, and other natural disasters are prevalent.
"We're delighted to join forces with the University of Edinburgh and our partners at the University of Colorado to deliver solutions that will have a profound impact on all aspects of humanity."
Last month, the UK space Agency selected A'Mhoine as the site of a £2.5m launch site for rockets carrying small satellites.
The ICED satellites are the first launched to be announced at the spaceport.
A consortium including the UK division of aerospace giant Lockheed Martin submitted plans to develop the site last year.
The Prospect union also supported the bid, with the first launches expected in the 2020s.
The UK Space Agency has welcomed the announcement.
Graham Turnock, chief executive of the agency, said: "Launching small satellites offers a tremendous commercial and science opportunity for Scotland and the wider UK, worth a potential £3.8bn over the next decade.
"The spaceport to be built in Sutherland is a key part of our industrial strategy to ensure that we thrive in the commercial space age, and the intention of Orbital Micro Systems and the University of Edinburgh to launch from the site is a great vote of confidence."