Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) for the competitive design phase of CHEOPS science satellite, which will improve mankind’s understanding of exoplanets - planets orbiting distant stars outside our solar system. The contractor selection for the implementation phase is planned by mid-2014 and the launch is scheduled late 2017.
The CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite (CHEOPS) will finely characterise known exoplanets and their parent stars with an unprecedented accuracy. The satellite will measure the orbit and radius of those exoplanets, enabling the scientists to assess their potential habitability. The mission will also act as a “scout” performing preliminary observations on targets for the future European Extremely Large Telescope and James Webb Space Telescope that will be capable of more detailed analysis.
CHEOPS was selected from 25 missions proposed in response to ESA Call for Small Missions in 2012, which was targeting innovative small science missions that offer high value at low cost. CHEOPS is jointly developed by ESA and a consortium of Member States led by Switzerland: The Swiss-built instrument using a Ritchey–Chrétien optical telescope will observe the stars and their orbiting planets, while ESA is responsible for the provision of the satellite platform and the launch.
Over the next 10 months SSTL will design the satellite platform, which will host the telescope payload. To provide the mission within a short schedule and at low cost, ESA asked that any solution be based on an existing, flight-proven, satellite platform. SSTL’s solution is based on a variant of the highly successful SSTL-150 platform, which has seen recent service in Canada’s Sapphire space surveillance mission and the 5-satellite RapidEye Earth observation constellation.
In awarding the contract to SSTL, Frederic Safa, Head of Future Missions Office in ESA’s Science and Robotic Exploration Directorate stated: “We chose SSTL for this study for a combination of reasons such as their proven ability to build reliable low-cost missions and their past experience with satellites carrying high-performance optical telescopes.”
SSTL’s Head of Science, Doug Liddle, commented: “We are delighted that ESA selected SSTL to design the CHEOPS mission. We will draw on our experience to design a low cost, but high value solution that will demonstrate that ambitious science missions can be launched both quickly and economically.”
CHEOPS is envisaged as the first in a series of missions in the ESA Science Programme that will utilise small satellites for low cost and rapid development, in order to offer greater flexibility in response to new ideas from the scientific community and complement to the larger missions of ESA’s Science Programme.
The SSTL blog reviews current efforts to remove man-made debris from Low Earth Orbit:
"Developing de-orbit technologies has never been more urgent and the race is on to find a suitable solution to the space debris problem. SSTL is currently working on a satellite design that carries a net based capture system to catch debris and tow it down into the Earth’s atmosphere where it will burn up and be destroyed. This is a simple system that hopefully won’t have to be tailored to each individual item of space debris, making it cost-effective over the long term. It’s not the only debris removal project that takes inspiration from fishing– Astrium is working on a project to harpoon threatening debris from close range and pull it downwards to burn up in the atmosphere using a propulsion system."
Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has successfully completed the delivery of the payloads for the first four Full Operational Capability (FOC) satellites of the European Galileo GNSS system to prime contractor OHB System AG.
The payloads were shipped to OHB in Bremen, Germany for integration of the payload to platform and the start of the satellite integration and test activities.
An article on the SSTL blog discusses their development of carbon fibre downlink antennas, for lower mass, higher-gain communications systems, to be demonstrated on the TechDemoSat-1 platform later this year:
ENGLEWOOD, COLO., April 3, 2013— Surrey Satellite Technology US LLC (SST-US) has moved into a purpose-built company headquarters and satellite manufacturing facility in Englewood, Colorado, providing full mission capabilities to its growing customer base.
The new SST-US headquarters comprises clean room space for satellite and subsystem manufacture, customer payload integration, and electronics assembly activities. The SST-US facility also includes an electronics laboratory, mission operations center, and office space to accommodate the growing team and its design, analysis, test, and management systems. Once in orbit, satellites built and launched by SST-US will be commissioned and operated from SST-US’ mission operations center.
“We established SST-US in Colorado over five years ago, attracted by Colorado’s growing prominence as a hub for the nation’s space industry and the resident critical mass of satellite companies, related technology firms, and experienced personnel. An incentives package from the State of Colorado and Douglas County to locate the permanent SST-US headquarters here in Englewood just south of Denver was a tangible indication that we are seen as a valuable contributor to the local economy and the high-tech knowledge base,” said Dr. John Paffett, SST-US CEO. “We are expecting significant growth and to triple our professional staff in the Denver area by the end of this year.”
“Interest in ‘small sat’ technology is intensifying in the United States as commercial, government, and military organizations face the prospect of continuing critical space missions with frozen or reduced budgets,” said Paffett. “Smaller satellites that can be built right here in Colorado at a fraction of the cost of larger, heavier spacecraft are the solution for many of these missions.”
SST-US will be exhibiting at the 29th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, April 8–11, 2013. Please visit SST-US in booth #122.
STRaND-2 is a twin nanosatellite mission from SSTL and the University of Surrey to test a novel in-orbit docking system using XBox Kinect technology that could allow spacecraft to assemble themselves on-orbit in a "building-block" fashion. Other applications for STRaND-2 include the safe removal of space debris and spacecraft maintenance, with a low cost "snap-on" nanosatellite providing backup power, propulsion or additional on-board computing capability.
Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) has signed an agreement with Glavkosmos / NPO Lavotchkin for the launch of the UK technology demonstration mission, TechDemoSat-1, by the Soyuz launch vehicle from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan in Q3 this year.
Part-funded by the Technology Strategy Board and South East England Development Board (SEEDA), TechDemoSat-1 is a collaborative project to bolster the UK’s thriving space industry by providing a low-cost opportunity for innovative commercial and research payloads under development in the UK to gain flight heritage.
Upon successful completion of the launch and early operations (LEOP) campaign, mission operations will be handed over to the new Satellite Applications Catapult Centre Harwell, Oxfordshire. It will be the first UK satellite to be operated from this new facility, which is currently part of the International Space Innovation Centre (ISIC) to merge with the Catapult in April of this year.
Tim Just, Head of Space at the Technology Strategy Board, said “TechDemoSat-1 is the first in-orbit satellite project directly funded by the Technology Strategy Board. This hugely exciting and anticipated development will provide true space flight heritage to a number of new ideas and companies. Once in orbit TechDemoSat-1 will be able to test several new satellite based products and services from UK businesses, breaking one of the key barriers to innovation in the space sector by reducing risk in demonstrating new space-based solutions and technologies.”
TechDemoSat-1 is based on the SSTL-150 heritage satellite platform but has been modified to carry its cargo of eight experimental payloads, and also test some new SSTL subsystem designs. The payloads onboard the satellite include:
- SSTL’s Sea State Payload (SSP) that will demonstrate how GPS signals reflected off the ocean’s surface can be used to determine ocean roughness and help maritime shipping plan more efficient routes.
- MuREM, a miniature radiation environment and effects monitor, supplied by the Surrey Space Centre.
- The Charged Particle Spectrometer (ChaPS), a radiation detector that can perform simultaneous electron-ion detection, developed by the Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL),
- The Highly Miniaturised Radiation Monitor (HMRM) from Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and Imperial College..
- The Langton Ultimate Cosmic ray Intensity Detector (LUCID), a detector that can characterise the energy, type, intensity and directionality of high energy particles, developed by the Langton Star Centre, part of a sixth form college, and is an element of a broader outreach activity supported by the industrial partners.
- A Compact Modular Sounder (CMS) system, an infrared remote sensing radiometer unit, provided by Oxford University’s Planetary Group and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory..
- SSBV’s CubeSAT ACS payload, which will provide 3-axes attitude determination and control.
- The Cranfield de-orbit sail designed by Cranfield University, will be the last payload to be operated on TechDemoSat-1 and will move the satellite to burn up quickly in the Earth’s atmosphere at the end of its life.
For more information on TechDemoSat-1 and its payloads, please visit SSTL’s website:
Congratulations to SSTL for the successful launch aboard an Indian PSLV-C20 launch vehicle of the tech demonstration satellite STRaND-1. The satellite uses a Google Nexus One smartphone as a secondary CPU to evaluate the use of commodity hardware to control satellites on orbit. It also has a new Linux-based high-speed processor, a new attitude control system, and two novel propulsion systems (8 pulsed plasma thrusters and a water-alcohol propulsion system).
At the time of writing, the spacecraft is on orbit and transmitting, and signals have been detected by numerous radio amateurs around the world, with the results posted on social networks. Controllers at the Surrey Space Centre are about to switch on the Nexus One to run initial tests.
SSTL also provided the basic satellite platform for another spacecraft launched at the same time -- SAPPHIRE (at left, above) , which will form part of the Canadian Space Agency's Space Surveillance System, tracking spacecraft and debris at altitudes of 6,000 to 40,000km.
A UK mission, jointly developed by the University of Surrey’s Surrey Space Centre (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), to send the world’s first smartphone satellite into orbit, is due to launch on 25th February.
The unique and innovative satellite, called STRaND-1 (the Surrey Training, Research and Nanosatellite Demonstrator), is a 30cm CubeSat weighing 4.3kg. It will launch into a 785km sun-synchronous orbit on ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from Sriharikota, India.
STRaND-1 will also be the first UK CubeSat to be launched and has been developed by talented space engineers and researchers at Surrey with the majority of the design and developmental work being carried out in their spare time. The build and test phase of the project has been completed in just three months.
At the heart of STRaND-1 is a Google Nexus One smartphone with an Android operating system. Smartphones contain highly advanced technologies and incorporate several key features that are integral to a satellite – such as cameras, radio links, accelerometers and high performance computer processors – almost everything a spacecraft needs except the solar panels and propulsion.
During the first phase of the mission, STRaND-1 will use a number of experimental ‘Apps’ to collect data whilst a new high-speed linux-based CubeSat computer developed by SSC takes care of the satellite. During phase two, the STRaND-1 team plan to switch the satellite’s in-orbit operations to the smartphone, thereby testing the capabilities of a number of standard smartphone components for a space environment. The satellite will be commissioned and operated from the Surrey Space Centre’s ground station at the University of Surrey.
Radio 4's science digest 'Material World' features the StraND-1 nanosatellite from SSTL. Dr. Chris Bridges, from the Surrey Space Centre and Surrey University, and Stuart Martin, CEO of Satellite Applications Catapult, explain how the latest British satellite will be controlled by a mobile phone.