World's first thermometer in the sky can measure heat output from 'any building on the planet'

British-designed satellite device to measure the heat output from buildings and help tackle climate change launches into orbit today.
Shubhangi Dua
Impression of how a satellite image of the heat map might look
Impression of how a satellite image of the heat map might look.

Ungrim / iStock 

London-based startup, Satellite Vu is launching a new satellie, HotSat-1 to help tackle the effects of climate change globally. 

“We’re introducing the first thermometer in the sky. Satellite Vu is launching a constellation of eight satellites that can measure the heat output from any building on the planet,” said the startup CEO Anthony Baker.

According to the BBC, HotSat-1 is devised to have the resolution to see individual rooftops and walls while flying at an altitude of 311 miles. Its infrared sensor has been developed with funds from the UK and European space agencies.

Tackling climate change

The invention has the potential to save household fuel costs if the UK’s traditional housing is retrofitted accordingly. 

With UK’s commitment to becoming net zero by 2050, the country is implementing infrastructural changes to accelerate the process due to its inefficient housing stock and an overwhelming majority of homes constructed prior to 1970.

Baker emphasizes the need to stop climate change instantly.

He says, “Here’s an instrument where you can measure the effects so that you can direct people to the worst buildings or the worst leakage of energy or pollution in the sea or failed solar cells and so they can take corrected action.”

The CEO further adds that by gaining access to city-wide data, the company can display the worst 20 percent of buildings quickly and can accordingly drive upgrades to the properties.

The satellite is equipped to identify structures and open spaces that aggravate the urban heat island effect including large car parks at retail centers.

Such dwellings can significantly increase the temperature in towns and cities.

As a result of identifying structures contributing to rising temperatures, planners could get an idea of where best to plant trees and cool the environment, BBC said. 

Scientific monitoring

With global temperatures constantly rising, NASA implemented Applied Remote Sensing Training Program (ARSET) in 2022 to mitigate heat-wave impacts and construct heat vulnerability indices to reduce health risks for the urban population.

The training highlighted the importance of remote sensing and thermal mapping from satellites. It aimed to “provide global, timely, objective observations to monitor the effects of urban heat islands (UHI) over time and monitor land surface temperature (LST) respectively.”

NASA said, “With the mapping of UHIs, incorporating socioeconomic data pertaining to population, demographics, and health information into heat vulnerability indices (HVI) can help guide interventions to manage heat-related risks to public health.”

HotSat-1 is said to help with pollution monitoring and detect sudden changes in the temperature of river water for example. 

The innovation’s sensor has been tested on an aircraft flying over the London Borough of Ealing, the data was monitored by Britain's national mapping agency, Ordnance Survey (OS). 

OS will have access to will have early access to the satellite’s data. Donna Lyndsay from OS said, “OS will combine the data with our intelligence and then test it on our customers.”

Transporter-8 Mission

SpaceX is scheduled to launch 72 satellites on a SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket (including HotSat-1) into orbit (June 12) at 5:19pm ET from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California today. 

You can watch the launch below.

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