The Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey is Europe’s largest University based Space Engineering and Technology Research Centre. In 1985, Professor Sir Martin Sweeting formed Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) as a spin-out company to transfer the results of its space engineering into a commercial enterprise. SSTL has been delivering small satellite missions for over 25 years and its knowledge and experience fully justify its reputation as the world’s premier provider of operational and commercial satellite programmes. In 2002, Professor Sir Martin Sweeting was knighted in recognition of his pioneering work.
Changing Space Economics
Conventional satellites are big, bulky and expensive to build and launch, but Sir Martin broke new ground, pioneering small, highly advanced satellites using robust ‘commercial off-the-shelf’ (COTS) consumer technologies, such as those used in personal computers, and adapted them to the unique environment of space. In 1981, his first satellite - UoSAT-1 – was successfully launched by NASA and transmitted signals back to the University of Surrey. His second satellite, launched in 1984, still transmits signals back to Earth, 26 years later!
SSTL now produces satellites for Earth observation and imaging, telecommunications and navigation, scientific research and instrument testing, for both civil and defence purposes, worldwide.
In 2009, SSTL was acquired by EADS Astrium, but maintains strong working links with the Surrey Space Centre. By August 2010, SSTL had launched 34 spacecraft, and achieved total export orders of £490m. Turnover for 2009 was £36m.
The Disaster Monitoring Constellation
The Disaster Monitoring Constellation shares data between partners owning satellites designed and built by SSTL. Members provide 5% of capacity free for daily imaging of disaster areas. Deputy Director of Surrey Space Centre, Dr Craig Underwood, explains: “Satellite technology is already playing a key role in helping to quantify and manage environmental challenges around the world, and we are working to make that contribution more effective.”
In January 2010, SSTL won a major part of a €3.4 billion contract to provide a European GNSS system - an alternative to the US Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Russian GLONASS system.