Take-off for Surrey with Pounds 11million win

August 4, 2000

The Surrey University company spin-off SSTL has followed the successful launch of the United Kingdom's first nanosatellite by winning the lion's share of funding for British National Space Centre research.

The company has been awarded Pounds 11 million out of a Pounds 15 million total in the Small Satellite Initiative Mosaic (Micro Satellite Applications in Collaboration) programme for three projects. The projects are:

* The Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) of earth observation microsatellites

* The Gemini geostationary communications minisatellite

* The Topsat high-resolution earth observation enhanced microsatellite for military earth imaging.

Martin Sweeting, SSTL chief executive, said: "Winning funding for all three projects awarded by the BNSC is a remarkable achievement. This recognises the SSTL's lead in small satellite technology, not only in the UK, but worldwide.

"The BNSC funding will catalyse these exciting and commercially important missions."

Gemini is a project, led by SSTL, to develop a low-cost, small geostationary communications minisatellite to support a range of data, telephone, television and radio services.

SSTL's geostationary minisatellite - which employs cost-effective commercial, off-the-shelf technologies - will allow customers to own a dedicated communications satellite to provide real-time services but at a fraction of the current cost. This minisatellite has to potential to open a new and commercially attractive export market for the UK.

DMC is an international project proposed and led by SSTL to construct a network of five affordable microsatellites in low-earth orbit to provide daily imaging for rapid-response disaster monitoring and mitigation.

Daily monitoring of the earth's surface from space can greatly aid the response, management and mitigation of disasters.

Current earth observation satellites give infrequent images, and delivery of critical information may take months because of periodic cloud cover and tasking conflicts.

A constellation of conventional large earth observation satellites able to provide worldwide daily imaging would be prohibitively expensive.

However, SSTL has developed 50kg microsatellites that can provide high-quality multispectral imaging at 2 per cent of the conventional cost.

Topsat is a mission to provide high-resolution earth images direct to the local user from a low-cost enhanced microsatellite. The project is being led by the UK Defence Evaluation and Research Agency.

Topsat harnesses an advanced panchromatic optical camera able to image the earth at 2.5m resolution, integrated with a microsatellite that is capable of delivering this imagery direct to a mobile ground terminal.

News of SSTL's success in winning the BNSC funding follows last month's launch of Surrey's latest two satellites. One was a microsatellite for China, Tsinghua-1, which is the first demonstrator for the DMC. The other was SNAP-1, the world's most advanced nanosatellite, which weighs in at just 6.5kg.

These latest launches bring SSTL's total missions to 18. Another microsatellite built at the SSTL for Malaysia is scheduled to be launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, next month.

SSTL website: www.sstl.co.uk

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