As part of the Astrium-led Earth Observation (EO) Hub project at the International Space Innovation Centre (ISIC) in Harwell, small satellite pioneer Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has completed the installation of key groundstation equipment. The ISIC groundstation can be used to operate existing and future UK space missions.
This comprehensive new system provides everything needed to plan mission operations, communicate with the satellites and downlink the images and other information for a broad spectrum of missions. It will initially be used to operate the SSTL-built TechDemoSat-1 satellite, which is being developed through a grant from the UK’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB), and planned to be launched next year.
Satellites are tasked from the Mission Operation Centre using the Mission Planning System (MPS). For example, for an imaging mission, a user can program where and when an image should be acquired days - or even weeks - in advance. This “tasking” of the spacecraft and the subsequent image acquisition is highly automated helping to reduce the cost of the operations.
After the missions are planned, the Spacecraft Operations Centre will track the satellites as they orbit Earth, automatically managing each satellite as it passes. The highly automated systems orientate the antenna, download telemetry data and provide spacecraft control and analysis functions to operator workstations.
SSTL’s Ground Systems Group integrated the SSTL heritage designed equipment with Astrium’s hardware and also to some existing RAL Space groundstation hardware, which included a fibre optic link to the 12m S-Band antenna. An SSTL Image Capture System (ICS) is also installed and is ready to decode high speed data downloads from the satellite once the antenna is upgraded to support X-Band communications.
The ISIC ground station has been qualified using both the UK-DMC and UK-DMC2 satellites, validating the telemetry monitoring and spacecraft command capabilities of the system. Images from the UK-DMC have also been successfully downloaded and processed to extract valuable information on the Earth’s environment.
Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) is the world's leading small satellite company, delivering operational space missions for a range of applications including Earth observation, science and communications. The Company designs, manufactures and operates high performance satellites and ground systems for a fraction of the price normally associated with space missions, with over 350 staff working on turnkey satellite platforms, space-proven satellite subsystems and optical instruments.
Since 1981 SSTL has built and launched 34 satellites – as well as providing training and development programmes, consultancy services, and mission studies for ESA, NASA , international governments and commercial customers, with its innovative approach that is changing the economics of space.
Based in Guildford, UK, SSTL is owned by EADS Astrium NV.