Skip to main content

STARCOP: Automated and self-improving follow-up verification of detrimental human-activity from LEO



Organisational Unit
Activity Type
Implementation progress
06 May 2022

Duration: 6 months


Intelligent connected spacecraft offer exciting possibilities for monitoring illegal activity with higher temporal resolution and confidence, and much lower time to insight. However, until now, satellite technology has suffered from a detrimental time-lag between detection, verification and action. ‘STARCOP’ is an initiative to use ML and multiple spacecraft to quickly assess atmospheric activity in near-real-time through the integration of multiple orbital instruments from different vantage points - a capability sometimes referred to as ‘tip and cue’. In this scenario, a ‘tip-off’ spacecraft could initially detect unlawful emissions activity and ‘cue’ other spacecraft, which might provide a better vantage point of the anomaly in terms of spatio-spectral resolution, timing or other data modalities (e.g., SAR).

Demonstrating this system on-board is a stepping stone to

  1. rapid response for tip and cue,
  2. more effective filling of observation and data gaps,
  3. global coverage at high resolution providing coverage to detect unlawful actors aware of the location of emission detecting satellites, and
  4. provide third-party verification and quantification to inform ongoing target acquisition.

For example, the STARCOP system could act on a ‘tip-off’ signal from a satellite from the Copernicus constellation on an anomalous methane bloom and instruct a partner spacecraft to follow up with hyperspectral imagery to determine the veracity of the signal and to quantify the amount and concentration of methane released.

This insight, returned rapidly to the ground nation where it occurred, could help determine whether or not this was an infringement according to post-COP26 agreements. STARCOP will work in concert with new and planned GHG monitoring platforms such as ESA CHIME, MethaneSAT, GHGSat and CO2MVS to help plug coverage gaps which remain an open problem.

Contract number
OSIP Idea Id
Related OSIP Campaign
Cognitive Cloud Computing
Main application area
STARCOP: Automated and self-improving follow-up verification of detrimental human-activity from LEO