Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) yesterday announced the successful launch of its TechDemoSat-1 satellite, an in-orbit technology demonstration mission for innovative new spacecraft equipment and software.
The spacecraft was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan into a 635km sun-synchronous orbit on board a Soyuz-2 launch vehicle on July 8.
The ground station at Harwell, south of Oxford, established contact with TechDemoSat-1 on its first pass.
It is the first satellite to be operated from the new facility at Harwell.
Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: “The successful launch of TechDemoSat-1 has given UK space companies a unique opportunity to test their cutting-edge technologies in orbit. These innovators can now show investors and potential customers how their products perform in the harsh environment of space.
“TechDemoSat-1 is also the first satellite to be controlled by the Satellite Applications Catapult. This was established by the Government to harness the success of the UK space sector and its world-leading companies like SSTL,” said Mr Willets.
The project is part-funded by a grant from the UK’s Technology Strategy Board. Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, said that the project was an “example of how our space programme is supporting business innovation in new applications using satellite data and space-based systems.”
“It allows us to provide UK businesses with an in orbit demonstration platform to test several new satellite-based products and services – a fantastic way to support innovation in the space sector and help businesses take advantage of the growing space market.”
The spacecraft carried eight separate payloads from UK academia and industry, providing valuable in-orbit validation for new technologies.
One of these technologies addresses the increasing problem of space debris.
According to NASA there are currently over 500,000 pieces of debris being tracked as they orbit the earth, consisting of both natural and man-made particles. They can travel at speeds of up to 17,5000 mph, and pose a significant threat to satellites or spacecraft.
TechDemoSat-1 will be escorted back in to the earth’s atmosphere by a specialised de-Orbit sail designed by Cranfield University’s Space Group Team.
When TechDemoSat-1 reaches the end of its mission, a command will deploy a sail stored by spring energy. Cranfield’s payload will then take up to 25 years to safely guide the TechDemoSat-1 spacecraft into the earth’s atmosphere to disintegrate.
One of the other eight devices onboard the launch was the UKube1, Scotland’s first satellite, which will allow the study of space weather and is also designed as a project for schoolchildren to communicate with the satellite.