About Us

SSTL Infographic

The SSTL story is a showcase of British ingenuity, ambition and engineering expertise

In the mid-1970s space was considered to be such a different environment to Earth that anything sent into the atmosphere needed to be specially designed and tested for the harsh conditions of space. Naturally, this made building satellites incredibly expensive and time-intensive.

In the late 1970s, a group of highly-skilled aerospace researchers working at the University of Surrey, including a young Martin Sweeting, decided to experiment by creating a satellite using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components. The results were surprising.

That first satellite, UoSat-1, was launched in 1981 with the help of NASA and the mission was a great success, outliving its planned three year life by more than five years. Most importantly, the team showed that relatively small and inexpensive satellites could be built rapidly to perform successful and sophisticated missions.

In 1985 Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd was formed as a spin-out company to transfer the results of research into a commercial enterprise.  The growth of the company has accelerated, and our innovative approach to the design, build, test and operation of spacecraft has propelled SSTL to the forefront of the small satellite industry.

In 2009 Airbus bought the majority shareholding from the University of Surrey, allowing SSTL to fulfil its growth potential.  SSTL is an independent company within Airbus.  

The SSTL story is a showcase of British ingenuity, ambition and engineering expertise

30 Years of Firsts

First modern microsatellite with in-orbit re-programmable computers, UoSAT-1 (1981)

First modern microsatellite with in-orbit re-programmable computers, UoSAT-1 (1981)

1981
First modern digital store-and-forward communications payload, UoSAT-2 (1984)

First modern digital store-and-forward communications payload, UoSAT-2 (1984)

1984
First modular 50kg microsatellite design, now widely emulated, UoSAT-3 and UoSAT-4 (1990)

First modular 50kg microsatellite design, now widely emulated, UoSAT-3 and UoSAT-4 (1990)

1990
First satellites for the nations of South Korea (1992), Portugal (1993), Chile (1995), Algeria (2002) and Nigeria (2003)

First satellites for the nations of South Korea (1992), Portugal (1993), Chile (1995), Algeria (2002) and Nigeria (2003)

1992
First microsatellite using GPS for on-board orbit determination, PoSAT (1993)

First microsatellite using GPS for on-board orbit determination, PoSAT (1993)

1993
First recorded and verified unintentional space debris impact by two man-made objects in Earth orbit, Cerise (1996)

First recorded and verified unintentional space debris impact by two man-made objects in Earth orbit, Cerise (1996)

1996
First microsatellite to take multispectral Earth images, TMSat (1998)

First microsatellite to take multispectral Earth images, TMSat (1998)

1998
First commercial organisation to launch on the Kosmotras DNEPR launch vehicle, UoSAT-12 (1999)

First commercial organisation to launch on the Kosmotras DNEPR launch vehicle, UoSAT-12 (1999)

1999
First satellite to use Nitrous Oxide as a propellant, UoSAT-12 (1999)

First satellite to use Nitrous Oxide as a propellant, UoSAT-12 (1999)

1999
First demonstration of autonomous orbit control, using on-board GPS and propulsion system to maintain drag free orbit over a period of months, UoSAT-12 (2000)

First demonstration of autonomous orbit control, using on-board GPS and propulsion system to maintain drag free orbit over a period of months, UoSAT-12 (2000)

2000
UK’s first nanosatellite in orbit, SNAP-1 (2000)

UK’s first nanosatellite in orbit, SNAP-1 (2000)

2000
First nanosatellite to demonstrate in-orbit inspection of another spacecraft and orbit autonomous attempted rendezvous, SNAP-1 (2000)

First nanosatellite to demonstrate in-orbit inspection of another spacecraft and orbit autonomous attempted rendezvous, SNAP-1 (2000)

2000
First use of propulsion on a nanosatellite, SNAP-1 (2000)

First use of propulsion on a nanosatellite, SNAP-1 (2000)

2000
First use of butane as a space propellant, SNAP-1 (2000)

First use of butane as a space propellant, SNAP-1 (2000)

2000
The first successful use of GPS on board a nanosatellite for orbit manoeuvring, SNAP-1 (2000)

The first successful use of GPS on board a nanosatellite for orbit manoeuvring, SNAP-1 (2000)

2000
First Knighthood for services to microsatellite engineering, Sir Martin Sweeting (2001)

First Knighthood for services to microsatellite engineering, Sir Martin Sweeting (2001)

2001
First satellite to have a web address in orbit, UoSAT-12 (2001)

First satellite to have a web address in orbit, UoSAT-12 (2001)

2001
First satellite to take 32m resolution multispectral images at 600km swath width, AlSAT-1 (2002)

First satellite to take 32m resolution multispectral images at 600km swath width, AlSAT-1 (2002)

2002
First internationally co-ordinated disaster monitoring constellation, the Disaster Monitoring Constellation (2002)

First internationally co-ordinated disaster monitoring constellation, the Disaster Monitoring Constellation (2002)

2002
First small satellite to use a Control Moment Gyro, BILSAT-1 (2003)

First small satellite to use a Control Moment Gyro, BILSAT-1 (2003)

2003
First use of Interplanetary Internet v6 on board a satellite in orbit, UK-DMC-1 (2003)

First use of Interplanetary Internet v6 on board a satellite in orbit, UK-DMC-1 (2003)

2003
First demonstration of a water propulsion system, UK-DMC-1 (2003)

First demonstration of a water propulsion system, UK-DMC-1 (2003)

2003
First Galileo positioning satellite for Europe, GIOVE-A (2005)

First Galileo positioning satellite for Europe, GIOVE-A (2005)

2005
First satellite image of New Orleans coastline, following Hurricane Katrina, NigeriaSat-1 image (2005)

First satellite image of New Orleans coastline, following Hurricane Katrina, NigeriaSat-1 image (2005)

2005
First low-cost minisatellite constellation for commercial Earth Observation– RapidEye (2008)

First low-cost minisatellite constellation for commercial Earth Observation– RapidEye (2008)

2008
First GPS position fix at 23,300km altitude, using GPS signals outside a GPS constellation – GPS experiment on GIOVE-A (2012)

First GPS position fix at 23,300km altitude, using GPS signals outside a GPS constellation – GPS experiment on GIOVE-A (2012)

2012
UK’s first cubesat in orbit, STRaND-1 (2013)

UK’s first cubesat in orbit, STRaND-1 (2013)

2013
First use of reflected GPS signals to measure sea-state and generate Delay Doppler Maps on board the satellite, SGR-ReSI instrument, TechDemoSat-1 (2014)

First use of reflected GPS signals to measure sea-state and generate Delay Doppler Maps on board the satellite, SGR-ReSI instrument, TechDemoSat-1 (2014)

2014
First momentum wheel to guide a lander to land on a comet’s surface, Rosetta/Philae mission (2014)

First momentum wheel to guide a lander to land on a comet’s surface, Rosetta/Philae mission (2014)

2014
Pioneers of the SmallSats Revolution

We use cookies to help enhance your experience and improve the functionality of our website.
For more details and help to manage your cookie options read our Privacy information.