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UK demo satellite passes design review, could launch in 2012

UK demo satellite passes design review, could launch in 2012

A UK technology demonstration satellite project has passed its preliminary design review (pdr) enabling construction to commence. Part funded by the national innovation agency, TechDemoSat-1 is designed to function as a combined orbital test bed and showcase for some of UK industry's most promising space technology.

The project began six months ago and is led by Surrey Satellite Technology and funded by the Technology Strategy Board and South East England Development Board. Following the successful pdr, there are plans to make the satellite ready for launch by April 2012.

TechDemoSat-1 is officially classed as a mini satellite, but at around 1m3 in volume, it will nevertheless carry a total of eight payloads plus a number of subsystem designs. Its design is based on the SSTL-150 platform developed for the successful SSTL built RapidEye remote sensing satellite constellation but with various modifications and upgrades to accommodate the new payloads crammed onboard.

An enhanced on board computer will give greater ability to conduct software experiments remotely while TechDemoSat-1's solar panels will incorporate two freshly qualified solar cell designs designed to improve power efficiency. A new battery charge regulator will help store the generated energy. The propulsion tank system will combine a smaller tank size with a new high performance 'resistojet' thruster to attain greater fuel efficiency. A star tracker will increase the accuracy of the attitude and orbit control system used to control the satellite's position in space.

The total amount of technology onboard has led to the use of an upgraded control network typically found in modern automobiles, serving to connect all modules on the spacecraft, and ensuring immunity from signal noise and minimal contention between nodes.

TechDemoSat-1's eight payloads are divided into four separate suites based on function: a maritime suite, space environment suite, air and land monitoring suite and a platform technology suite. The payloads have been developed together with ComDev Europe, Mullard Space Science Laboratory, Oxford University, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Langton Star Centre, Surrey Space Centre and Aero Sekur.

Chris Shaw

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