Guildford satellite imagery provider DMCii and Beijing-based company 21AT have signed a deal for three UK-built DMC-3 earth observation satellites with a resolution of less than a metre.
The Chinese will use the pictures to monitor land use and land-cover changes. In particular, the data will enable regional governments to plan better the extraordinary rate of development in China's cities.
The satellites for the DMC-3 constellation, as it is called, will be manufactured by DMCii's parent company, Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL). It will cost some £110m to build, launch and insure these platforms.
SSTL plans to place an Android smartphone in orbit later this year. The phone will be integrated as part of a 30cm-long nanosatellite, and will be tested to see if it will function successfully as the spacecraft's command processor. The mission is called STRaND-1 (Surrey Training Research and Nanosatellite Demonstration), and continues SSTL's efforts to make maximum use of COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) components.
"Modern smartphones are pretty amazing," said SSTL project manager Shaun Kenyon.
"They come now with processors that can go up to 1GHz, and they have loads of flash memory. First of all, we want to see if the phone works up there, and if it does, we want to see if the phone can control a satellite."
The mobile model being used will be a standard, sub-£300 ($450), smartphone available in High Street stores.
"We're not taking it apart; we're not gutting it; we're not taking out the printed circuit boards and re-soldering them into our satellite - we're flying it as is," Mr Kenyon explained.
"And, in fact, we're going to have another camera on the satellite so we can take a picture of the phone because we want to operate the screen and have some good images of that as well."
Shaun Kenyon of SSTL's Mission Concept Division discusses the application of off-the-shelf technologies such as MEMS, 802.11 wireless networking and USB interconnects in responsive smallsat mission design.
Prof. Sir Martin Sweeting, chairman of SSTL, takes an optimistic view of human spaceflight and lunar colonisation
"’Only three years ago, if you said there was water on the Moon, people would have taken you off to the loony bin,’ said Sweeting. ’Now they’ve discovered large amounts of water there, we can take that water to generate fuel so that we can then start to travel further and have sustainable food resources. This could make those plans of returning to the Moon a possibility. But to do that and for the UK to be involved, we have to change the economic model.’"
"Sweeting’s vision is that the UK will ’own’ large areas of space as countries, including China and India, vie to establish colonies on the Moon over the coming decades. His plan is to surround the Moon with small satellites to give astronauts internet and communication capabilities."
Sweeting sees a key role for the UK in establishing the infrastructure for such efforts:
"He likens the situation to the Gold Rush of 1848, when thousands of people rushed to California in search of their fortune. ’In reality, the people who made the money were the guys on the railways who set up the hotels, provided the shovels, the water they didn’t make money overnight, but they made very good business. That’s where the UK should be, providing the infrastructure.’"
SSTL has announced a £100M project to launch three satellites capable of imaging the Earth's surface at 1-metre resolution. The project is a joint commercial venture between SSTL and its imaging subsidiary DMCii, and will lease capacity to countries which do not have their own Earth observation capability:
SMi and SSTL have teamed up to organise a conference "The Increasing Potential of Small Satellites" which will take place at the Surrey Research Park in Guildford this December. The event follows on from the sell-out of The Potential of Small Satellites Masterclass in 2009. Register for a comprehensive survey of both the current and future technologies involved in small satellite design, and also the current and future applications to which those technologies can be applied.
SSTL's Internationally renowned Military space expert Dr. Stuart Eves will lead a Masterclass that combines presentations, discussions and interactive learning offering delegates:
An understanding of the current potential of small satellites and an insight into their future capabilities.
Insight into the field of small satellite engineering, since system design, satellite technology and data processing applications.
A chance to see some of the world’s latest small satellite technology “in the flesh”.
SSTL has commenced building a small satellite for the Republic of Kazakhstan that will provide medium resolution multi-spectral earth observation capability to complement the high resolution satellite that is being provided by EADS Astrium as part of the contract awarded to the company in October 2009.
The Republic of Kazakhstan is utilising the latest Earth Observation (EO) satellite technologies from EADS Astrium and its subsidiary SSTL to create a national system which will support its government with resource monitoring, resource management, land-use mapping and environmental monitoring information for policy and decision making.
The Medium Resolution Earth Observation Satellite (MRES) project highlights how systems from the two EADS Group companies can be deployed together to provide integrated multi-satellite space systems. The new EO system will include a high resolution mapping spacecraft and a wide-swath medium resolution multispectral mapping spacecraft implemented by a team comprising Astrium and SSTL.
Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) celebrated 25 years of space innovation this month. The British company was incorporated on 11th June 1985 to commercialise small satellite research from the University of Surrey and has since become the most successful cash exit from a UK university spin-out when it was acquired by EADS Astrium last year.
SSTL’s military space expert Dr. Stuart Eves has accepted a year’s secondment to the new Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) at the UK’s new Harwell facility to advise on space security. His principal responsibility will be as the authority on the Security and Resilience Unit (SRU) that will form part of the International Space Innovation Centre (ISIC).
Enough with the acronyms! ISIC is a joint venture between the UK Government and Industry, that is anticipated to evolve into a centre which supports both UK national requirements as well as international security-related space systems. The idea is to create a Hub of Innovation that will act as a seed-bed for innovation in the UK.
Stuart will also be expected to actively liaise with the newly formed UK Space Agency on space security matters in support of government policy making, since a close relationship between the policy and strategy aims of the agency and the executive elements at ISIC will clearly be
Engineers at Surrey Satellite have designed and developed a "cubesat" small satellite which is intended to combat the hazard of space debris, by docking with defunct satellites, and deploying a 25 sq-m. plastic sheet as a "drag sail", to increase air resistance and accelerate deorbiting. They plan to launch a demonstration mission next year.
"Our system is simple and very low cost; but we need to demonstrate that it can be done," said Dr Vaios Lappas, lead researcher on the project and senior lecturer in space vehicle control.
"It would help make space a sustainable business. We want to be able to keep on launching satellites to provide new services; but unless we do something, the amount of junk up there is going to grow exponentially."