Launched in 2001, the Project for On Board Autonomy (Proba) satellite was designed as a technology testbed with a lifetime of a couple of years. Five years on, it has exceeded all expectations and has been used extensively as an Earth observation satellite, providing crucial pictures to environmental researchers across the world. The size of a small tea chest, Proba has taken more than 10,000 pictures of more than 1,000 places on Earth using a compact high resolution imaging spectrometer. The device, which was part-funded by the British National Space Centre, weighs 14kg and is the smallest of its kind to fly into space. It can see details on the surface of the Earth at a resolution of 17m and has helped scientists monitor landfill operations, track the role of woodland as sources and sinks of carbon dioxide, identify Roman buildings and assess different land use strategies in central Namibia’s savannahs.
13 photo slideshow at the Guardian.