Earth Observation & Science

Science & Exploration

SSTL small satellites are playing an increasing role in space science and exploration, enabling compact, sophisticated payloads to access the orbital environment, both affordably and in rapid time frames. 

Small satellites and space instruments can be used to underpin national science programmes offering continual progress, innovation and improving economic returns which will ultimately enrich international programmes. The benefits include: 

  • Increased flight opportunities and more focussed missions for more principal investigators
  • Faster turnaround from concept to results
  • Speedy response to emerging opportunities
  • National distinction for pioneering world class science
  • De-risking expensive projects
  • Opportunities to negotiate and collaborate in bi-laterals
  • Opportunities to train next generation scientists and engineers
  • Ownership of a prestigious, strategic asset focussed on national goals

There is huge potential for small satellite exploitation in scientific applications. A roadmap towards complex mission objectives can be achieved with low cost satellites, individually, and in constellations and formations, to increase data sampling and synthesise much larger satellites. Small satellites can be co-located alongside a larger, traditional satellite to mitigate payload accommodation challenges and to add extra payloads once the main satellite has been launched.

Small satellite missions can cover a wide range of space science applications:  

  • Optical and gamma ray astronomy
  • Space environment
  • Solar science
  • Upper atmosphere science
  • Lunar and planetary

Particular areas of research and development at SSTL include looking at the use of small satellites for: 

  • Mapping and disaster monitoring
  • Hyperspectral imaging
  • GPS reflectometry for sea state monitoring
  • Earthquake science
  • Infrared and thermal infrared imaging

SSTL promotes understanding of scientific requirements across a range of earth and space science missions. SSTL small satellites offer valuable opportunities in:

  • Early payload flight experience for in-orbit demonstration and test bed activities
  • Being complementary with larger missions
  • Performing specific scientific applications affordably and in rapid timeframes
  • Constellations and formations to increase data sampling and synthesise much larger satellites

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