Twenty-six years ago today the University of Surrey team led by future SSTL-founder Sir Martin Sweeting launched the UoSAT-2 satellite (a.k.a UO-11) onboard a Delta rocket with LandSat-D from Vandenberg Air Force Base, USA on the 1st March 1984.
The 60kg small satellite was built in just 6 months and carried a Digitalker speech synthesiser and experiments including magnetometers, a CCD camera, a Geiger-Müller tube and a microphone to detect micrometeoroid impacts.
UoSAT-2 was instrumental in providing a communications link from the Canadian-Soviet Ski-Trek support teams to the expedition party in 1986. The position of the skiers' emergency beacon was calculated daily by Cospas-Sarsat ground stations and relayed to them and thousands of amateur radio listeners as a spoken message from the Digitalker on board UO-11. This is really worth a listen - visit the expedition web page. The message could also serve as an emergency channel to the skiers in the event that all other radio links failed.
UoSAT-2 also carried the Digital Communications Experiment (DCE) that was the first digital packet store-&-forward payload on a microsatellite. Find out more about this payload and see some photos of UoSAT-2 being built at Lloyd Wood’s personal UoSAT-2 pages.
The plucky small satellite was still transmitting last week on 145.825 MHz AFSK-FM at 1200 bps after 26 years in orbit! The small demonstration satellite’s on-board batteries are exhausted after 26 years in orbit, so the satellite now only operates in sunlight and has inactive beacons at 435.025 MHz and 2401 MHz.
SSTL celebrated the 4th anniversary of the launch of its historic GIOVE-A satellite on Dec 28th. As the first of the Galileo In Orbit Validation Element satellites, GIOVE-A was the first step in Europe's visionary Galileo satellite navigation programme when it was launched on December 28th 2005.
During the past 4 years, SSTL and GIOVE-A have contributed significantly to the testing and validation of technologies vital to the now imminent operational constellation of satellites. The 660 kg GIOVE-A satellite was built by SSTL for ESA in just 30 months at a cost of just 28m Euros.
SSTL CEO Dr. Matt Perkins commented
"SSTL is proud of its involvement with the Galileo programme and the continuing success of GIOVE-A. This mission has clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of SSTL’s small satellite approach for the delivery of operational missions."
GIOVE-A was the first part of the in-orbit validation programme for Galileo, broadcasting the first signal to successfully secure the critical Galileo frequency filing with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) at 17:25 GMT on the 12th January 2006. This was a significant achievement for SSTL having commissioned the necessary systems to achieve this broadcast in just 3 weeks.
SSTL applauds Lord Drayson’s announcement of a UK executive Space Agency and believes that in the current climate it is enormously encouraging that the Science Minister has the vision to propose this initiative and the commitment to bring it to fruition.
Space is a rapidly growing industry, even in this period of economic difficulty, with great potential to contribute positively to the future UK economy especially in the area of small satellites, as the Minister noted during his announcement yesterday. SSTL hopes the new agency will be the conduit for further government initiatives such as MOSAIC, the seed-corn technology funding which has underpinned many of SSTL’s recent missions, and which has shown a 12:1 return on initial investment.
Professor Sir Martin Sweeting, SSTL’s founder and Executive Chairman, commented “The UK has a thriving but little-known space industry and, over the last decade, space has been an increasingly critical component of our everyday lives. To raise the profile of space in the UK, the new agency will need to be the focus for programmes that will play to UK strengths, bring benefit to the tax-payer and fire the imagination of young people. The current government Innovation and Growth Team activity with UK industry has identified several new ideas with business potential, such as satellite broadband internet provision, constellations of small remote sensing satellites and inspirational concepts such as Virgin Galactic’s manned Spaceship Two, and the UK MoonLITE lunar mission. These all point to a vibrant future for UK Space.”
SSTL is sponsoring a team of students that have been enrolled in the Engineering Education Scheme (EES) to help solve real and live problems for engineering, applied science and technological companies. The Scheme is set up by the Engineering Development Trust (EDT), with the aim to provide students aged 16 and 17 with experience in engineering, science and technology in order to make informed decisions about their future education and career.
During the 6 month programme, the students who all currently attending Farnborough 6th Form College, will take on the task set by SSTL to “Investigate possible ways of detecting earthquake precursor signals using satellites, to help us move from disaster monitoring to disaster mitigation”. The project will be mentored by SSTL Radio Frequency team member David Sanderson.
The Director General of the Sri Lankan Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, Priyantha Kariyapperuma and Professor Sir Martin Sweeting of Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), signed a landmark agreement today. This agreement starts a Sri Lankan national space capability by providing an SSTL Earth Observation satellite and commencing the definition and design of Sri Lanka’s first communications satellite.
Peter Hayes, the British High Commissioner in Sri Lanka recognised the value of the agreement, saying “This project is exciting for the development of telecommunications in Sri Lanka and will strengthen the ties between the two countries.”
The programme, including a training and development programme and collaborative activities between the University of Surrey and leading Sri Lankan academic institutes, will promote academic, industrial and socio-economic development. The project has been approved by the Sri Lankan government under the personal direction of His Excellency, President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Professor Sir Martin Sweeting, who also chairs the Space Centre of the University of Surrey, said “Sri Lanka has already demonstrated a keen interest in space based technology, supported through numerous programmes within the country’s universities and other academic organisations such as the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies. Our close partnership will allow Sri Lanka to fully embrace the benefits of space technology through training and education while stimulating industrial development. The economic benefits resulting from space based communications including TV, broadband services and earth observation applications are substantial and will positively contribute to the country’s development as a “high-tech” trading nation”.
Under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), SSTL will provide an Earth observation capability and start work on a geostationary communications satellite. By partnering with SSTL for Earth observation, Sri Lanka will become an important member of the Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) with the ability to participate in international disaster relief support activities coordinated by the United Nations through the International Charter. SSTL will also advise on the establishment of the Sri Lanka Space Agency (SLASA), building on SSTL’s experience of supporting the formation of five previous national agencies.
The Director General of the Sri Lankan Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, Priyantha Kariyapperuma welcomed the agreement, saying “Universities here in Sri Lanka have developed a programme of strong engineering research. Given that the UK is the most preferred destination for academic professionals working in technological fields to further their development, I am delighted that the opportunities created through this programme will serve to bring the two nations closer together.”
ESA’s Education Office has awarded a contract to Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd of the UK to manage the development and testing of the first European student mission to the Moon. Launch is expected in 2013-2014.
Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has been selected as the prime contractor for the European Student Moon Orbiter (ESMO) project. The final signature of the contract took place on 4 November 2009. The mission involves delivering a spacecraft to lunar orbit, followed by 6 months of operations that include mapping of the lunar surface and studying our nearest neighbour.
Unlike a typical space project, each spacecraft subsystem, payload and ground segment element is being designed, built and operated by groups of university students based in ESA Member States or Cooperating States. As with the previous satellites sponsored by the ESA Education Office, the objective of ESMO is to prepare the next generation of European engineers and scientists by providing valuable hands-on experience with a real and demanding space project.
The feasibility study and preliminary stages of spacecraft and payload design were led by the Education Office and have involved teams of interested students. More than 200 university students from many different countries and institutions have already participated in these early phases of the project.
SSTL’s new Composites Facility in Bordon, Hampshire will complement its design and engineering capabilities.
Composites are fundamental to state of the art engineering, and their inherent versatility, strength and low weight makes this class of materials an essential component in SSTL satellite design. The vertical integration promises lead time and cost savings that will enable the company to deliver excellent value satellite missions by using the best available technologies.
The 10,000 square feet facility's primary function is the manufacture of composite components and structures and it has a climate controlled Lay-up Room, Processing Area, dedicated Surface Preparation Area and a Trimming and Finishing facility. A large Processing Oven, Vapour Degreasing Tank, 'Vapormaster' Shot Blast Cabinet, Walk-in Freezer are already installed and a composites curing Autoclave will also be commissioned in 2010.
Rocketeer comments: Hmm, I wonder if it would be used to construct the LauncherOne composite airframe...
"Adam Baker of Surrey Satellite Technology, a British firm, knows a great deal about the economics of launching the kind of small satellites that Virgin’s system might put into orbit. At the moment such satellites must either piggyback on the launch of a larger satellite or be launched rather expensively on their own rocket. A satellite costing only a few million dollars to build may thus cost $20m-30m to launch. Dr Baker says the challenge is to get the cost of a small-satellite launcher down to a few million, and he is so excited by the possibilities that he is leaving his employer to join Virgin Galactic.
"Dr Baker reckons that costs can be cut if the launch rocket uses the satellite’s guidance computer instead of having its own, and if the satellite’s built-in rocket motor is bolstered to do the work now performed by a launch rocket’s upper stage. That would mean satellite and launch rocket would have to be designed in tandem, so customers could not shop around for different launch vehicles. But Dr Baker is gambling that the system will be so cheap that this will not matter."
Rocketeer says: SpaceX are on a roll following the recent announcement of their Orbcomm launch contract. Looks like the Falcon-1e is starting to hit a sweet spot in the market ;-)
SpaceX And Astrium Announce Groundbreaking Deal
Hawthorne, CA, September 8, 2009 – Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Astrium announce a contract for a SpaceX Falcon 1e to launch an Earth observation satellite designed by Astrium or its recently acquired subsidiary Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL).
The Falcon 1e is an ‘enhanced’ version of SpaceX’s successful Falcon 1 launch vehicle. Designed from the ground up by SpaceX, the Falcon 1e has upgraded propulsion, structures and avionics systems in order to further improve reliability and bring to market increased mass-to-orbit capability to better serve the needs of the small satellite community.
Astrium and SSTL provide a range of innovative, cutting edge Earth Observation satellite products and through this agreement will be able to offer customers a turnkey solution, with in-orbit delivery of a low Earth orbit satellite system.
The partnership between SpaceX and Astrium paves the way for potential future cooperation.
“SpaceX’s Falcon 1e launch vehicle was designed to provide the highest level of reliability as well as the lowest dedicated mission price of any orbital launch system,” said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. “SpaceX is pleased to be the launch services provider for this mission.”
“This Falcon 1e contract allows Astrium to provide a competitive solution for in-orbit delivery of an Earth observation satellite in low Earth orbit,” said Evert Dudok CEO of Astrium Satellites. “This deal will ultimately benefit customers seeking innovative and low-cost solutions for valuable Earth observation programs”.
SpaceX is developing a family of launch vehicles and spacecraft intended to increase the reliability and reduce the cost of both manned and unmanned space transportation, ultimately by a factor of ten. With the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 vehicles, SpaceX offers highly reliable/cost-efficient launch capabilities for spacecraft insertion into any orbital altitude and inclination. Starting in 2010, SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft will provide Earth-to-LEO transport of pressurized and unpressurized cargo, including resupply to the International Space Station (ISS).
Founded in 2002, SpaceX is a private company owned by management and employees, with minority investments from Founders Fund and Draper Fisher Jurvetson. The SpaceX team now numbers over 800, with corporate headquarters in Hawthorne, California. For more information, please visit the company's web site at www.spacex.com
The time has come around again for The British Science Festival, an event which is organised by the British Science Association, and takes place every September. The University of Surrey, Guildford, hosts the festival this year with further events scheduled throughout the rest of the county. The festivities run from 5th September until the 10th.
There are lots of activities to get involved in during the 6 day event, including discussions, plays and talks. SSTL's Sir Martin Sweeting, Andy Bradford, and Dave Hodgson are amongst the speakers at the Festival. Both Bradford and Sweeting hail from local Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), with Hodgson making an appearance from DMC International Imaging Ltd. The Festival celebrates all things science, engineering and technology. This year in particular, it will celebrate what would be the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, with budding scientists encouraged to explore his theories and all other scientific ideas. The Darwin Now project, partnered with the British Council, is behind the birthday commemorations of the late scientist.
2009 is also the International Year of Astronomy, and this was marked by The Great Look Up, which made an attractive appetiser for the British Science Festival. The Great look Up took place on the evening of Friday 28th August and encouraged families and friends to become astronomers for the night, using telescopes and various other equipment to gaze at the stars. The University of Surrey and the Guilford Astronomical Society joined forces for this wonderful occasion to arrange a workshop and barbeque. Guest speakers included our very own Dr Stuart Eves, from Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.
For more information on the British Science Festival including the full programme and booking details, take a look at the dedicated website.
Forty years ago, as the first humans stepped onto the Moon, there was talk of frequent missions, permanent Moon bases and even lunar factories. But still only 12 people have walked on the Moon and there have been no soft landings since the 1970s. But all that could soon change.
Already, The USA, Europe, China, Japan and India have sent orbiters and there seems to be a rush if not a race back to the Moon. Leading it, with the first instruments at the lunar poles and far side, could be the UK’s MoonLITE mission.
In this programme, Richard Hollingham discovers how, by using small, low cost components, British space scientists hope to set up a network of instruments to monitor moonquakes and probe the lunar interior and one or more orbiting satellites that could establish communications and navigation systems for other human and robotic missions.
Professor Sir Martin Sweeting of MoonLITE’s prime contractor, SSTL, hopes it will be commercial likens it to the hoteliers and ironmongers who were the ones to profit from the Californian gold rush. It will also, he says, give the UK a seat at the table when it comes to selecting international astronauts who might return to the Moon.