Surrey project wins Nasa cash

July 7, 2000

A technology spin-off from the University of Surrey has won a contract from American space agency Nasa to research the development of a worldwide communications standard based on internet protocols (rules governing how the internet operates).

Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) has won nearly $60,000 (Pounds 38,000) from the space agency to investigate the potential for its minisat-400 spacecraft to operate with communications service providers using IP.

Satellite operators use their own exclusive protocols to communicate with spacecraft. IP-based communications would simplify the process, enabling operators to download satellite data to a PC anywhere in the world. The net would then route the data requests to the nearest ground station in view of the spacecraft.

SSTL has been researching the use of IP for satellite communications for six months using UoSAT-12, a mini-satellite it designed.

The research contract will identify critical gaps in technology while providing solutions for satellite IP architecture and technologies.

In March, the company won a $120,000 Nasa contract to research the range of concepts for a mission to investigate the earth's magnetosphere.

SSTL is also celebrating the launch of the UK's first nano-satellite. The company's 6.5kg SNAP-1 was launched, from Russia, simultaneously with another micro-satellite, Tsinghua-1, built in collaboration with Tsinghua University in China.

Tsinghua engineers activated the Tsinghua-1 satellite on its first pass over Beijing. SNAP-1 was activated on its first pass over Surrey.

The satellites will demonstrate, for the first time, orbital formation flying when they rendezvous via an inter-satellite link later in the mission. SNAP-1 will evaluate the use of commercial micro-miniature technologies and use its four video cameras to demonstrate the remote sensing of other spacecraft in orbit - in this case Tsinghua-1.

Tsinghua-1 carries multispectral earth imaging cameras as a demonstrator for SSTL's forthcoming Disaster Monitoring Constellation of micro-satellites, as well as experimental communications payloads.

Tsinghua-1 is Surrey's first full three-axis-controlled micro-satellite following the successful demonstration of key attitude control technologies on previous micro-satellite missions.

Further commissioning reports for the satellites will be posted on SSTL's website at: www.sstl.co.uk

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