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SSTL’s TechDemoSat-1 to demonstrate UK innovation in space

26 October 2010

Small satellite pioneer, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has been awarded a grant to commence the design phase of a national technology demonstration satellite called TechDemoSat 1. The UK Technology Strategy Board and the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) have together provided a grant of GBP770,000 to fund the core mission design elements.

SSTL, UK industry and UK academia will fund the novel payload technologies and the grant will enable the final payload selection process to be completed. Following a successful  design phase, a further grant of GBP2,730,000 will be released and that the programme will transition into the build and test phase.

UK organizations currently experience huge cost barriers and find it very time consuming to obtain a first flight demonstration for new equipment and technologies in space.  The Technology Strategy Board and SEEDA aim to address this issue by providing an ‘in orbit test bed’ for UK technology. The rapid flight qualification model characterized by the TechDemoSat-1 programme has been proven to yield excellent return on investment for “UK plc”, with previous programmes such as the UK’s MOSAIC initiative of 2001 leading to export some 20 times greater than the original investment .

Iain Gray Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board and member of the UK’s Space Leadership Council commented; “SSTL have a strong track record in innovation and this grant will enable them to create an accessible test bed for other organisations to demonstrate the next generation of UK space technology”

TechDemoSat-1 will be the first collaborative UK satellite launched since the establishment of the UK Space Agency and will demonstrate the advanced capabilities of state-of-the-art small satellite technology for scientific and commercial applications.  It will also be among the first missions to make use of the ground station facilities that are currently under construction at the UK’s new International Space Innovation Centre (ISIC) at Harwell, Oxfordshire.
David Parker of the UK Space Agency commented; “TechDemoSat-1 is part of our response to the Space Innovation and Growth Strategy. By allowing new technologies to get into space more quickly, TechDemoSat-1 will give UK space businesses a competitive edge and help the sector maintain its impressive growth which has continued unabated through the current economic downturn”.

From the outset, the mission concept has been industry-led - the culmination of several leading British space companies’ and universities’ efforts to demonstrate the UK’s technical lead in space innovation.  As the project leader, SSTL will cooperate with the research and commercial partners providing the payloads in building, testing and operating the satellite.  CEO of SSTL, Dr Matt Perkins, commented; “SSTL is proud to be leading TechDemoSat-1.  This project will build on the world leading capabilities of UK industry and academia and provide them with a tangible advantage in a crowded and valuable export market.”

TechDemoSat-1 will carry a number of diverse UK payloads to demonstrate the innovative potential of today’s highly capable small satellite-based missions for applications such as monitoring the maritime environment and shipping, man’s impact on the planet and providing in-situ measurements of a wide range of space radiation from low energy plasmas to high energy cosmic ray particles. Payload partners (while still under final selection) are expected to include ComDEV Europe, SSTL, Selex GALILEO, QinetiQ, Aero Sekur, RAL Space, Oxford University, University of Surrey, Leicester University, MSSL and The Langton Star Centre (providing a UK schools experiment).

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