Surrey Satellite to put Xbox parts in space

Surrey-based researchers are to build Xbox Kinect hardware into twin satellites in an auto-docking experiment.

The microsatellites, to be called STRaND-2, are being developed by University of Surrey and Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL), with the Kinect providing its 3D laser scanner.

CubeSat is a mechanical standard for miniature satellites. In this case, the spacecraft will be ‘3U’ CubeSats each measuring 10x10x30cm and weighing under 4kg.

“Docking systems have never been employed on such small and low cost missions and are usually reserved for big-budget space missions to the International Space Station or historically, the Mir space station and the Apollo programme,” said SSTL.

They will dock many times, initially with ground intervention, then increasingly automatically.

SSTL’s speciality, through extensive testing, is selecting commercial electronic hardware which can be used in space – STRaND-2’s scanners will come out of actual Kinects.

Inspiration for the flight came from an experiment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where a tiny helicopter equipped with Kinect hardware was used to scan rooms as it flew through them, allowing a 3D model of the environment to be built, said SSTL project leader Shuan Kenyon.

The University of Surrey and SSTL team has already developed STRaND-1 (Surrey Training, Research and Nanosatellite Demonstrator), and was looking for a further challenge.

STRaND-1, another 3U CubeSat, will famously carry a mobile phone into orbit and send data direct to schools.

STRaND-1 is also one of the most manoeuvrable small satellites ever built, with eight micro-thrusters providing rotation in three axes as well as lateral movement in two dimensions. A separate gas jet provides thrust in the third linear dimension.

If two similar satellites can be made to dock, the team is proposing larger self-assembling structures made of many, perhaps dozens, of CubeSats.

“It may seem far-fetched, but our low cost nanosatellites could dock to build large and sophisticated modular structures such as space telescopes,” said Surrey university project head Dr Chris Bridges. “Unlike today’s big space missions, these could be reconfigured as mission objectives change, and upgraded in orbit with the latest available technologies.”

“I think by STRaND-4, we should be able to build the USS Enterprise,” quipped Kenyon.

Other ideas include using small mobile scanning satellites to inspect larger spacecraft.

‘Kinect’ STRaND-2 at UK Space Agency Conference http://www.uk.amsat.org/6795

STRaND on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/nanosats

'Kinect' STRaND-2 at UK Space Agency Conference

Tim Peake at UKSA Conference 20120426

Prospective UK Astronaut Tim Peake addressed the conference via Skype

On the anniversary of the launch of Ariel-1, April 26, the UK Space Agency and the Science Museum co-hosted a two-day conference celebrating 50 years of the UK in space. It brought together those who started the UK on the road to being a world-renowned centre for space technology and research with the scientists and engineers of the next fifty years.

Vince Cable at UKSA Conference 20120426

Vince Cable Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

Ariel-1 was the world’s first international satellite. The United Kingdom stepped up to an offer from NASA to launch scientific satellites at an international meeting on space research in 1959. From this point, the UK took the lead in satellite technology as well as beginning the UK’s long history of international collaboration.

As part of the programme on the 26th, there were personal insights from scientists and engineers involved in the original design and build of the Ariel series of satellites, as well as those teams developing the flagship programmes of today and tomorrow. The Science Museum will be highlighting historic milestones in the UK space sector over the course of the week.

Shaun Kenyon at UKSA Conference 20120426

Shaun Kenyon of the STRaND project

The future is set to be as innovative and inspirational as the last 50 years. There is a vast potential for space technology. From the growing need for Earth observation satellites to monitor urgent social and environmental issues; to the emerging reality of space tourism; to our ever-improving capability to see deep into the Universe, the UK space sector is at the forefront of facing up to these challenges.

During the conference prospective UK astronaut Tim Peake, currently in the USA, addressed the conference via a Skype video link.

Shaun Kenyon, who has worked on the innovative STRaND-1 SmartPhone satellite project, gave a well received presentation about the future opportunities for the UK Space Industry. He also described another UK first – STRaND-2 – twin 3U CubeSats with docking capabilities using a gridded Lidar system based on that used in the Kinect games controller.

Surrey Space Centre http://www.surrey.ac.uk/ssc/
STRaND on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/nanosats

‘Kinect’ STRaND-2 at UK Space Agency Conference

Tim Peake at UKSA Conference 20120426

Prospective UK Astronaut Tim Peake addressed the conference via Skype

On the anniversary of the launch of Ariel-1, April 26, the UK Space Agency and the Science Museum co-hosted a two-day conference celebrating 50 years of the UK in space. It brought together those who started the UK on the road to being a world-renowned centre for space technology and research with the scientists and engineers of the next fifty years.

Vince Cable at UKSA Conference 20120426

Vince Cable Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

Ariel-1 was the world’s first international satellite. The United Kingdom stepped up to an offer from NASA to launch scientific satellites at an international meeting on space research in 1959. From this point, the UK took the lead in satellite technology as well as beginning the UK’s long history of international collaboration.

As part of the programme on the 26th, there were personal insights from scientists and engineers involved in the original design and build of the Ariel series of satellites, as well as those teams developing the flagship programmes of today and tomorrow. The Science Museum will be highlighting historic milestones in the UK space sector over the course of the week.

Shaun Kenyon at UKSA Conference 20120426

Shaun Kenyon of the STRaND project

The future is set to be as innovative and inspirational as the last 50 years. There is a vast potential for space technology. From the growing need for Earth observation satellites to monitor urgent social and environmental issues; to the emerging reality of space tourism; to our ever-improving capability to see deep into the Universe, the UK space sector is at the forefront of facing up to these challenges.

During the conference prospective UK astronaut Tim Peake, currently in the USA, addressed the conference via a Skype video link.

Shaun Kenyon, who has worked on the innovative STRaND-1 SmartPhone satellite project, gave a well received presentation about the future opportunities for the UK Space Industry. He also described another UK first – STRaND-2 – twin 3U CubeSats with docking capabilities using a gridded Lidar system based on that used in the Kinect games controller.

Surrey Space Centre http://www.surrey.ac.uk/ssc/
STRaND on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/nanosats

50 years of the UK in space

This is a year of momentous milestones in the life of Britain, ranging from Charles Dickens’ bicentenary to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Adding further significance to 2012 is the UK space industry, which has a golden anniversary to mark: the launch of the nation’s first satellite, Ariel-1, on April 26th 1962.
In the news
Built by NASA in collaboration with a team of British academics, Ariel-1 was the world’s first international satellite, and constituted the foundation of the UK space sector – now annually worth £7.5 billion to the UK economy, and supportive of some 70,000 jobs across a variety of the nation’s industries.
Ariel-1
To mark this special anniversary, the UK Space Agency is presenting a two-day space symposium on the 26th and 27th of April, at the home of their active co-hosts, the Science Museum. Now a year old, the UKSA has much to be enthusiastic about; and the symposium will commemorate past achievements, and explore the future direction of Britain’s thriving space industry – with contributions from some of the leading players in the sector today.

The UK Space Agency was founded to provide strategic support to the sector, while making significant investments through its 230m civil space budget. Almost 90 per cent of the agency’s budget currently goes to the European Space Agency, for collaborative pan-European space projects. This strategy is helping to secure Britain’s role as a key player in the development of Europe’s space going future.

SSTL is a case in point; with its current role in the European Commission’s European GNSS program. The company will assemble eight batches of satellite navigational payloads, on top of the 14 it is already building. In addition, the UK government recently announced that it would invest in the development of NovaSAR, SSTL’s small radar satellite. The space agency’s work signifies government recognition of the groundbreaking work in space technology by UK universities, research centres, and companies like SSTL.

Ariel-1

SSTL is itself of historical significance, as the creator of the first ‘talking satellite’, UoSAT-1 in 1981. Their current work in nanosatellite and microsatellite technology, is a far cry from the ancestral Ariel-1, which had the aesthetics of a 1950’s ‘sci-fi’ fantasy space craft: multiple, sphere-like radio antennas protruding from a cylindrical body; multiple solar arrays; inertia booms to control the craft’s spin, and a 100-minute tape to store a single orbit’s worth of data.

Perhaps the most dramatic contrast in SSTL’s current work, to the ‘little-green-man’ craft that was Ariel-1, is its Smartphone satellite STRaND-1. This unique nanosatellite is designed around a Google Nexus One, Android Smartphone. In a playful nod to classic science-fictions’ dream of a space-going future, is the inclusion of an App on the phone that tests out the film Alien’s infamous slogan: ‘In space no-one can hear you scream’.

Providing SSTL’s contribution to the UK Space Agency’s symposium, will be Shaun Kenyon, lead System Engineer on the aforementioned, nanosatellite STRaND-1. On the 26th, 
he will discuss the importance of flagship projects and small satellites to UK space technology. Shaun’s insights will help to put in context the retrospective significance of Ariel-1, as he expounds his belief in the importance of satellite technology and low cost access to space for commercial endeavours.

Robin Wolstenholme

CubeSats: good things come in small packages

CubeSats may be small but they have big ambitions. Credit: Aalborg University

CubeSats may be small but they have big ambitions. Credit: Aalborg University

By Ben Gilliland
For the vast majority of Earth’s history it had but one satellite – the Moon – but that all changed in 1957 when, on October 4, the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite into Earth’s orbit.Sputnik-1 was a 58cm (23 inch) sphere that contained two 1-watt radio transmitters and three batteries (two for powering the radios and one to power a cooling fan). The 83kg aluminum sphere emitted radio signals that were transmitted back to Earth via four 2.4m-2.9m “whip” antenna.

Its radio did little more than beep at Earth, but its signal was picked up by amateur “ham radio” enthusiasts all over the world.

In many ways, Sputnik was not just the world’s first satellite, it was also the first “people’s satellite” – anyone with suitable radio equipment could listen to the plucky little satellite as, for 22 days, it whizzed around the globe at 29,000km/h (18,000mph).

Sputnik-1 kick-started the space race and the satellite industry, but was really little more than a transmitter that beeped. Credit: NASA

Sputnik-1 kick-started the space race and the satellite industry, but was really little more than a transmitter that beeped. Credit: NASA

America’s first satellite was even smaller. Launched on January 31, 1958, and weighing in at just 14kg, Explorer-1 boasted several scientific instruments including a cosmic ray detector, five temperature sensors and micrometeor detectors.But satellites didn’t stay small, simple and accessible for very long.

As they increased in complexity, so they increased in size. From the size of a beach ball, satellites were soon the size of a family cars, then buses and (in the case of the International Space Station) the size of a football field.

With increased size and complexity came increased costs.
It can take a decade and hundreds of millions of pounds to develop an Earth observation satellite – but that is just the tip of the financial iceberg. Launching a satellite weighing several tonnes into orbit can cost between £30million and £250million ($50million to $400million) and just paying for the radio bandwidth needed to get your information back to Earth can cost up to £1million ($1.6million) a year. That’s not taking into account the cost of ground operations and maintenance of the satellite.

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BBC TV – How Satellites Rule Our World

They are constantly circling hundreds of miles above our heads, driving our daily lives – yet we barely give satellites a second thought. Satellite engineer Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock Ph.D., MBE wants to change all that. She wants to make us realise and appreciate what these unsung heroes of the modern world have done for us.

Maggie reveals how satellites have revolutionised exploration, communication, location-finding and spying. She discovers how they have transformed not only the way we see our planet but our understanding of the dangers within it, like volcanoes and earthquakes. Plus, she discovers the jaw-dropping power of the technology used by satellites to make our lives run smoothly.

The final 8 minutes of the show covers CubeSats and features Peter Shaw of the amateur radio STRaND smartphone satellite project.

‘In Orbit: How Satellites Rule Our World’ was broadcast on BBC 2 at 2100 BST (2000 UT) on Sunday, March 25 and is available to watch on the web at
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01f6qpq/In_Orbit_How_Satellites_Rule_Our_World/

It is understoood that this broadcast could be blocked in certain countries. A way around this may be to use a Proxy Server or software such as Expat Shield.

Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock Ph.D., MBE http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maggie_Aderin-Pocock

UK Amateur Radio Smartphone CubeSat STRaND-1 http://www.uk.amsat.org/1942