On board the same rocket, the NovaSAR-1 radar satellite and the S1-4 high-definition optical satellite, both developed and manufactured by a firm based in Surrey, blasted off from a space centre in India.
Backed by a £21m government investment, the NovaSAR-1 can take images day or night, even through thick clouds.
This means it can monitor illegal logging in high, cloud-covered tropical rainforests, such as the Amazon. It is also capable of tracking floods and oil spills at sea.
Perhaps best of all, its designers believe it could excel at monitoring shipping to help law enforcement agencies catch smugglers.
Luis Gomes, chief technology officer of Surrey Satellite Technology, which developed the satellites, told Sky News: “It takes advantage of the technology that is mandatory on large vessels to continuously broadcast their position, who they are and where they are going.
“And so what we do is we compare that information with the images that we get.
“So if you see a ship that is not broadcasting its signal, or some signal that corresponds to a ship that isn’t there, then we can tell the local authorities and say to them, okay you should go and investigate.”
The other satellite, S1-4, is so powerful it can spot objects the size of small card tables from 360 miles up in space. Both are just part of a long-running story of British success at the leading edge of satellite technology
Mr Gomes added: “UK space science is world-leading and with the support of the government and the support of companies and academic organisations, this is one of the world centres for satellite technology.”