20.06.2022 / 18:22 // OroraTech

Munich-based NewSpace Intelligence startup OroraTech has achieved mission objectives for FOREST-1. The company's first satellite will be used for environmental monitoring, specifically the detection of wildfires. FOREST-1 is the first of its kind to combine a thermal imaging camera, a mid-infrared camera and a visible-range camera in a compact design that requires no cooling. It also has a graphics processing unit (GPU) in space that is used to process the data in orbit. Thanks to an inter-satellite modem, informations reach the Earth in real time. FOREST-1 was launched in January 2022 as part of the SpaceX Transporter 3 mission in Florida, USA.

Wildfires are increasing - also in Germany

Flughafenfeuerwehr und Wasserwerfer im Einsatz gegen Waldbrand in Brandenburg
© Polizei Brandenburg

The importance of this technology is demonstrated not least by devastating forest fires in Germany. In the last few days alone, fires destroyed several hectares of forest in the Harz Mountains (Brocken), Brandenburg (Treuenbrietzen) and Saxony (Niesky). Temperatures of almost 40° Celsius over the weekend and the lack of rain for weeks are drying out the soil. In many places, the forest fire danger index is already at danger level 4, and in some places even at danger level 5. All over Germany, firefighters are on alert and monitoring the situation on the ground. They could be helped by technology from space: satellites for earth observation.

Hours of observation gaps with catastrophic consequences

But current satellites in low Earth orbit are inadequate at monitoring wildfires in the afternoon, the prime time for fires. In some cases, eight hours can pass before a satellite can report on a forest fire, which can have disastrous consequences. OroraTech's FOREST-1 breakthrough technology, on the other hand, provides much higher accuracy and faster global coverage while reducing data processing time. In addition, FOREST-1 delivers high-resolution imagery at a much lower cost than before.

Bushfires in Borroloola, Australia, were detected by OroraTech’s FOREST-1 satellite on May 24th, 10:15:37 local time. The image shows a composition between the satellites’ three main instruments, all with a swath of about 170km. The smoke plumes of the fire can be seen in the RGB channel, whereas the MWIR channel tracks the precise heat signatures of the fires. The LWIR channel inserted in the lower part of the image allows for accurate ambient temperature measurement.; © OroraTech

This is an important milestone for the company as our team has proven that thermal-infrared technology on a nanosatellite can outperform existing technology. We will launch the next eight satellites by the end of 2023 that will allow us to serve insights to our customers during peak burn time in the afternoon, where there is currently no data. In the next few years, we will achieve a detection time of 30 minutes worldwide with our entire satellite constellation.

Thomas Grübler, CEO OroraTech

Own satellite constellation for seamless monitoring

To date, the company has relied on various external satellite data sources for its wildfire intelligence platform. FOREST-1 is the first step toward OroraTech's future fleet of nanosatellites. The technology is highly scalable and will provide cost-effective global coverage with high-resolution temperature measurements. This data will be used to pave the way for improving climate resilience. After all, dealing with climate change requires a seamless flow of information between applications. Not only for early detection of forest fires, but also for monitoring heat trends in urban areas, irrigating agricultural land or accurately tracking carbon emissions.

Written by (MWe)