SSTL and its new owner EADS-Astrium have announced the creation of a new ”Space Engineering Innovation Hub” in conjunction with the University of Surrey in Guildford, UK. The new venture that was highlighted by Sir Martin Sweeting when the sale of SSTL was announced in January, and now work is storming ahead to put the necessary funding and structures in place.
The new hub will combine academic research and commercial exploitation to develop technologies that “change the economics of space” by providing rapid-response, low-cost, highly capable space missions. This has been reflected in the creation of a prestigious new Research Chair in Space Engineering at the Surrey Space Centre. The new Chair will be jointly sponsored by the Royal Academy of Engineering and SSTL. Applications are already flooding in - so if you fancy challenging the current economics of space with innnovative new technologies, and helping the UK stay at the forefront of International space research then now's the time to start!
UK Science Minister Lord Drayson commented
"Surrey is a shining example of innovation in the UK space sector, leading the world in pioneering new and more affordable approaches to space and its applications. I applaud the imagination and commitment of the Academy and SSTL in their investment in the future of Britain in space."
Robert Barrett of the Royal Academy of Engineering added:
"The Academy strongly supports the effective combination of academia and industry through our prestigious Research Chairs Scheme – this new professorship at the Surrey Space Centre is an example of the Academy’s commitment to linking industry with academia."
SSTL has built and launched 32 small satellites and has eight more under construction carrying Earth observation, navigation, communications and space science payloads. The Surrey Space Centre and SSTL are currently working on an exciting UK-led small satellite mission to the Moon in 2012.
From a recent conversation with another British space advocate:-
BTW run the figures on this proposed air launched rocket from SSTL. I sure as hell can't make it work financially. Look at Pegasus. Classic example. If Pegasus is still as pricy as it is, how SSTL are going to reduce costs I don't know.
You know, I'm going to have to go out on a limb and disagree with you here ;) As a comparison example you've picked just about the most expensive launcher by mass there is. Demand for smallsat launch in the $20-25M range is inelastic, so it's not in OSC's financial interests to lower prices. They charge what they do because they have a large standing army to support, because they have sugar daddies with cost-plus blank chequebooks (the US military) and because they can.
In my opinion a closer comparison to LauncherOne is Falcon 1. Musk is quoting $7.9M for F1, and LauncherOne will be a significantly smaller vehicle (50-200kg payload vs.c. 400kg, plus the advantage of launching from 40kft) assuming similar propulsion tech.
If I were going to take a wild-assed guess, I'd have pegged LauncherOne total development project costs in the range $30-50M, marginal unit costs $3-5M. I agree with you that $1M is VERY optimistic, but I think with a lean, competent NewSpace team they could produce something which (a) works, and (b) is potentially somewhat cheaper than F1 (by unit cost, if not by cost per deliverable payload mass). It's already known that engine tests and full-scale dummy drop tests can be done for a few million, because T/Space did it, and AirLaunch did it for their ORS contract. I'm prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt.
You'd better hope that the standard industry cost models are broken. Musk is depending on it -- and if Musk can't deliver at the prices he says he can, and if demand isn't elastic at the prices he can deliver, then (the first phase of) NewSpace doesn't work and it's that much LESS likely that more technically ambitious projects will get fully funded.
Rob Coppinger reports that the UK government is "prepared to fully support the development of the air launched micro satellite carrying rocket proposed by Virgin Galactic and Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL)":-
Rocketeer comments: Sounds like good news, but I'd prefer to see an official announcement, rather than "a senior BNSC source's cleaner's second cousin's cat is quoted as saying...". As I blogged before, I would hope that as much as possible of the propulsion system is produced in the UK.
Lord Drayson, Minister of State for Science and Innovation visited SSTL on Friday 6th February. He met Sir Martin Sweeting (SSTL founder and board chairman), Matt Perkins (CEO), Paul Brooks (Business Development Director) and Phil Davies (ESA business development manager).
Lord Drayson is responsible for developing and delivering policy that will contribute to world-class research in the UK and the conversion of science into wealth through innovation.
The UK space industry is thriving, with innovative companies like SSTL and the businesses that it cooperates with making a valuable contribution to the national economy and developing expertise and knowledge within the UK technology sector. This year promises to be a busy year in space, as developing nations step up their plans, the market of commercially operated small satellites increases develops and Europe expects a busy year in space. As a pioneer and market leader in small satellites, SSTL has seen the Smallsat market begin to mature as the benefits and capabilities become apparent, stimulating increased competition from both national and internationally active manufacturers throughout the world.
The SSTL team briefed Lord Drayson on several topics including SSTL's business plans, its involvement with Europe's Galileo and GMES programmes and the UK's national space activities including the MoonLITE lunar exploration mission.
Following the briefings, Lord Drayson was given a tour of the facilities which included a visit to the constellation control centre, the DMCii disaster monitoring imaging processing centre and the satellite integration facilities. At the latter of these LD was shown 2 satellites which a ready for launch - the next 2 DMC satellites - UK-DMC2 and Deimos-1 (for Spain).
SSTL and Virgin Galactic are proposing to work together on the development of a small, air-launched satellite launch vehicle, which would be carried aloft on the WhiteKnightTwo aircraft. The vehicle would be a two-stage rocket similar to the OSC Pegasus, expected to carry at least 50kg and possibly up to 200kg of payload into a polar orbit of 400km (248 miles).
Adam Baker of SSTL said: "Hopefully we can do it for a lot less money than the current providers.
"It costs something like $5m-$10m at the moment to get one of our smaller satellites into space. What we are targeting is to see if we can do this for a million dollars.
"I think that's a very challenging number but I'm confident we can get very close to that - and if you could build the satellite itself for a couple of million dollars, all of a sudden you've got a very attractive package for well under $5m that lets your customers do something pretty capable in orbit."
Rocketeer comments: Finally some "joined-up" NewSpace! I wish SSTL and Virgin the very best of luck in making this work (though I'm not optimistic that the Government has the nous to support it :p). I wonder who would do the propulsion work. They could always farm it out to "Grandpa EADS", but it would be more interesting if they kept it inhouse or supported a new UK startup.
EADS Astrium, Europe’s leading space company, has acquired Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), the innovative University of Surrey spin-out company which specialises in the design and manufacture of small satellites and subsystems. This acquisition follows the approval of the European Commission in December 2008 and was announced by EADS CEO Louis Gallois at 10:30 this morning at his January briefing for the media in Newport (this will be made available on demand on the EADS Video Centre this afternoon to see this again on demand).
This is great news that we have acquired SSTL. The UK space industry is in a strong position at present – at Astrium we have a healthy order book and we are recruiting engineers, scientists and technicians to build telecommunication and scientific satellites. Acquiring SSTL means we will have a substantial complement to what we can offer customers around the world – SSTL has expertise in small satellites and an innovative approach to developing new markets for space.
said Colin Paynter, CEO of Astrium in the UK.
Professor Sir Martin Sweeting, Executive Chairman of SSTL, said:
This acquisition is essential for SSTL, both in enabling our future plans and maintaining and expanding our R&D investment in competitive new technologies. Being part of Europe’s leading space company will considerably strengthen SSTL’s market position.
Rocketeer comments: I wish SSTL every success with their future plans, but I can't help but feel a little...anxious about the implications. What if SSTL came up with a cheap, innovative product which directly undercut an existing Astrium project? Would the upstart mammal get squashed under dinosaur feet?
The ambitious UK-led lunar program, MoonLITE, was presented at a meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society in London last Friday by SSTL's Phil Davies. Coordinated by SSTL partner in space Dr. Stuart Eves, the meeting discussed the scientific applications of small satellites in lunar missions. A number of overseas speakers attended to present their existing programmes and a number of UK papers on future mission proposals were also presented.
Feedback on the programme of talks has been excellent and it seems that many are convinced that world class science is now possible using high capability small satellites. You can find out more and read the presentations on the University of Leicester's Astronomy with small satellites web page.
The Galileo team here at SSTL have been presented with an award by the European Space Agency (ESA) that acknowledges the successful GIOVE A mission and its outstanding contribution to the success of the Galileo programme. The award was presented by Didier Faivre of ESA’s Galileo Directorate to Elizabeth Rooney of SSTL at an event held at the European Space Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, The Netherlands, on 13th October 2008.
SSTL was contracted into ESA’s Galileo programme in 2003, when it began building the first GIOVE test bed satellite as part of the Galileo In Orbit Validation Element (GIOVE) of Galileo. The satellite was rapidly built and launched before the end of 2005. Since then the company has been actively involved with the in-orbit testing of GIOVE-A and, more recently, GIOVE B, launched in April 2008.
Last month, SSTL together with its German partner OHB-System was downselected by ESA and the European Commission (EC) as one of two potential suppliers of satellites to the Galileo operational system to be deployed by 2013.
We would like to draw your attention to the forthcoming Royal Astronomical Society meeting on "Astronomy With Small Satellites", being held on Friday 14th November 2008 at the RAS headquarters in Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, as part of the 2008/2009 season of monthly RAS meetings.
The meeting is being organised in recognition of the fact that small satellites have now evolved to a level of complexity that allows them to perform a wide variety of useful scientific missions. We hope that it will provide an opportunity to discuss the state of the art in small satellites and also to establish contacts with other experts working in the small satellite field.
We have an extensive programme of talks being presented by an international panel of speakers, covering the history, current status and future prospects for small satellite missions. Full details of the meeting, including the current programme, can be found on the meeting website at:
Please note that we still have space for posters at the meeting, and we welcome poster contributions on any current work or future plans that you may have relating to small satellite missions, or the science that could be performed using small satellites.
We would also like to emphasise that this is by no means a closed invitation - if you have other contacts that you think would like to participate, please pass this information on to them.
The Space Experiment Competition for UK schools which will see the winning team flying their entry on board a British-built satellite has been won by Shrewsbury School with their proposal for an ionospheric scintillation experiment called POISE.
Shrewsbury School, in Shropshire, beat five other groups from around the UK in the final stage of the competition which was announced at an awards ceremony at the International Astronautical Congress in Glasgow (IAC) today (Friday 3 October).
The winning experiment is expected to measure variations in the ionosphere, which can affect the accuracy and safety of satellite navigation systems, and might also help to provide indications of impending earthquakes.
The competition, launched earlier this year, challenged teams of 14 – 19 year olds to design and build a small, compact satellite instrument. The experiment will be flown as an additional payload on a low Earth orbiting satellite being built by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, (SSTL), the world’s leading manufacturer of small satellites based in Guildford.
The winning team had to overcome significant challenges to design their experiment within the tight constraints of the competition. Their instrument could be no larger than the size of a lunch box, weigh no more than one kilogram and operate on less than one Watt of power.
The competition has been sponsored by the British National Space Centre (BNSC), a cross-Government organisation that co-ordinates civil space activities in the UK.
Ian Pearson, the Minister for Science and Innovation, said:
“We have some fantastically creative and talented young people in the country. It’s staggering to see the effort and imagination that has been generated by this competition.
“Shrewsbury School is to be congratulated on winning this innovative joint BNSC/SSTL school competition. I had the opportunity to meet some of the finalists earlier this summer and all of their ideas were excellent evidence of innovative thinking in our schools.
“I offer my commiserations to the runners-up. For the winners, the hard work starts now. The winning instrument will go into space on an SSTL satellite and I look forward to being invited to the launch.”
The students from Shrewsbury School will now work with SSTL’s scientists and engineers to refine the design of their experiment. The experiment will fly on board an SSTL satellite mission which is currently planned for launch in late 2010.
Professor Sir Martin Sweeting, founder of SSTL, emphasised the educational potential of the mission: “SSTL was founded by the University of Surrey and we have always had very strong links with academia, so we’re delighted to extend this opportunity to UK schools. I hope that the experiment will encourage more of our young people to take up careers in science and engineering.”
Dr David Williams, Director General of BNSC, said: “The UK has a fantastic capability in the space arena and ambitious plans for exciting programmes such as the lunar exploration mission, MoonLITE. We hope this competition will help to inspire the next generation of space scientists who will make those plans a reality.”
The judging panel included Professor Colin Pillinger and Keith Mans, the Chief Executive of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
The winning team was announced at IAC by South Korea's first astronaut, Soyeon Yi. She recently returned from a trip to the International Space Station, having been chosen from about 36,000 applicants for the mission.