The Phoenix Mission will see another Amber RF (Radio Frequency) EO payload launched into orbit in mid-2024.
The UK government sponsor and initiator of the Amber program is the Royal Navy via the Joint Maritime Security Centre (JMSC) in Portsmouth. Amber is a space-based data service and will play a key role in detecting “dark vessels” such as those evading sanctions against Russia, Iran, etc., illegal fishing, smuggling (people and goods), transshipments, and refugees.
Unlike other EO constellations, Amber is unique. Horizon’s Amber payload detects, geolocates, and demodulates maritime RF (Radars and SatPhones) signals from “dark vessels.” Amber is a maritime intelligence data service and is “always on,” and every Amber satellite/payload continuously covers about 3% of the world’s surface at all times.
Amber satellites/payloads are not “tasked” and act essentially as “space-based RF signal vacuum cleaners,” constantly picking up emitters over about 3% of the earth’s surface at all times. In addition, because Amber demodulates the RF data, the data is not merely “radio frequency mapping” as offered by others.
The Amber Phoenix Mission satellite is to be the first of a proposed constellation of more than 20 Amber payloads on-orbit to provide worldwide RF data to the JMSC and other customers with 30-minute latency. Some Amber payloads will also be integrated and deployed on EO and SAR satellite constellations to provide tip and cue capabilities to end users.
Previously, Horizon Technologies’ original Amber payload was on one of eight (8) smallsats lost on the Virgin Orbit failed launch of January 9, 2023, where Virgin Orbit’s Launcher One failed to reach the proper orbit. This was part of the Satellite Applications Catapult IOD-3 Program, for which Horizon Technologies was competitively selected in 2019.
“Tracking vessels attempting to avoid detection is a complex challenge, but one that Horizon Technologies can help solve with their ground-breaking technology. Our support for the newAmber Phoenix Mission will develop a new capability to improve space-based maritime intelligence data services and catalyst further investment into the growing UK space sector. I’m looking forward to seeing Horizon Technologies launch many more satellites in the future.” — Dr. Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency
“The ability to proliferate Amber payloads into other constellations will (1) give us lots of extra “Looks Per Day” (LPD) around the planet resulting in more revenue for Horizon and our partners, and even better, (2) will make tipping and cueing (whereby one satellite geolocates a target of interest, and a follow-on satellite images that target [EO or SAR]) a reality, and is sure to be market disruptive.” — John Beckner, CEO, Horizon Technologies
“It’s been a pleasure for the Catapult to support Horizon Technologies’ transition into the space sector. After the January launch setback, the Horizon team has worked tirelessly for its follow-on mission – we wish them and Phoenix a successful venture.” — Ms. Lucy Edge, COO, Satellite Applications Catapult
Horizon Technologies’ CEO John Beckner added, “Certainly, the bleak events of the evening of 9 January will not be forgotten anytime soon, but as soon as the mission failed, the whole Horizon team immediately came together to develop a plan to save Amber since it is a key sovereign UK technology. As one of the few UK SME’s on the Virgin Orbit launch, we received immediate guidance from the UK Space Agency team for which we are extremely grateful. Without the generous support of the UK Space Agency, we would have had to shut down this business segment.”