UK STRaND-1 CubeSat Video

Dr Chris Bridges and STRaND

Dr Chris Bridges and STRaND hardware

In this video Surrey Space Centre’s Dr. Peter Shaw talks us through the anatomy of the highly advanced UK CubeSat STRaND-1.

The innovative amateur radio STRaND-1 CubeSat aims to carry a NEXUS Android Smartphone into space to demonstrate the feasibility of using cheap Smartphone electronics to control a spacecraft.

A software-based speech synthesiser will be included to pay homage to the UOSAT family of satellites (OSCAR-9 and OSCAR-11) that were launched in the 1980′s.

STRaND-1 will carry an amateur radio payload with an AX.25 packet radio downlink on 437 MHz using data rates of 9k6 or 19k2 bps.

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WARP DRiVE for UK STRaND-1 CubeSat

Dr Chris Bridges working on STRaND

Dr Chris Bridges working on STRaND

The SSTL Space Blog reports on WARP DRiVE (Water Alchohol Resistojet Propulsion system), a novel new propulsion system that will help the STRaND-1 cubesat to perform manoeuvres. STRaND-1 is the first cubesat to have two types of propulsion system. As well as the WARP DRiVE, it will be equipped with a pulsed plasma thruster system which will provide full-axis control with low power, mass and volume requirements.

WARP DRiVE works by pushing water alcohol out of a tiny hole (just 0.2mm across) to produce thrust. The main advantage of this system is that it’s much smaller than regular space propulsion systems measuring in at about the same width as a drinks coaster. The WARP DRiVE will also provide more thrust than other similar systems whilst maintaining a comparable specific impulse (the efficiency of the propulsion system).

Read the SSTL Space Blog at

STRaND stands for Surrey Training, Research and Nanosatellite Demonstration and the programme is intended to be a long-term arrangement between the space company SSTL and academic researchers at the Surrey Space Centre (SSC), with STRaND-1 the first of a long line of STRaND nanosatellites.

STRaND-1 aims to carry a NEXUS Android Smartphone into space and plans to use data rates of 9k6 or 19k2 bps for the AX.25 packet radio downlink on 437.575 MHz. A software-based speech synthesiser will be included to pay homage to the UOSAT family of satellites.

The SSTL employees involved with the STRaND programme are volunteers. It is a condition of the programme that volunteers from SSTL and SSC use their own, free time for STRaND activities (such as lunches and breaks). The project has no budget for staff so is entirely dependent on volunteers.

To watch a presentation about STRaND-1 given by Dr. Chris Bridges to the AMSAT-UK 2012 International Space Colloquium following these steps:
• Go to
• Click on “Film Archive
• Select “AMSAT 2012″ in the Category box and click on Select Category
• Select “A03 – STRaND-1” in the Stream box and click on Select Stream
• Click the play button on the video player window

The videos can be downloaded for later use, for instance at a club meeting, by clicking on the “Click Here” link underneath the video player.

GEO Group to visit Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL)


SSTL Kepler Building

GEO members have been invited to have a guided tour of the new facilities at Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) on Friday, June 8.


SSTL HQ - Tycho House

GEO is a group of enthusiasts interested in the amateur reception of weather and earth imaging satellites. They produce a first-rate quarterly magazine, samples can be seen here.

SSTL has more than 25 years of experience in delivering bespoke Earth observation missions, operating constellations and providing imagery to a diverse range of customers.

Further details of the visit are at

GEO organises symposia. The first was in May 2004, there has been one every year since then – the most recent in May 2011. The programmes included workshops for total beginners and for the more advanced users of MSG-1. Full details are published in the GEO Quarterly and the groups website.

The quarterly GEO magazine features colour images, advice and commentary about the latest Earth imaging satellites and other developments. Thirty one issues have been published so far – the next is due in June 2012. Other resources available to new members are computer software, equipment advice and support from other members.

The GEO Yahoo Group can be found at

GEO Group for Earth Observation

Watch a timelapse video of the construction of the SSTL Kepler building

UK CubeSat Plasma Propulsion Thruster

STRaND-1 CubeSat Plasma Propulsion Test

STRaND-1 CubeSat Plasma Propulsion Thruster

The amateur radio STRaND-1 smartphone CubeSat is a joint project between SSTL and the Surrey Space Centre (SSC). It’s not only its smartphone that makes it exceptional. Engineers at the Surrey Space Centre have also developed a unique mass and power saving plasma propulsion system to fly on the satellite. This system will be the first propulsive technology to provide very precise attitude control and pointing.

STRaND-1 will carry both a Resistojet and a Pulsed Plasma Thruster (PPT) module on board. The PPT will consist of eight micro thrusters; four located at the top of the satellite stack and four located at the bottom. The micro thrusters operate by discharging a discrete train of pulses. Each pulse is a plasma discharge that forms between two metal electrodes, much like a small lightning bolt or electrical spark. The spark erodes the metal from the electrodes and electromagnetics accelerate the eroded mass out of the nozzle, which produces thrust. This is known as the Lorentz force.

Surrey Space Centre has developed two ways of minimising mass and volume. Firstly, the electrodes which form the plasma discharge also function as the propellant. As metal is highly dense, more propellant can be stored in a smaller volume than that of conventional chemical propulsion systems. The total weight of the propellant for the whole STRaND-1 PPT system is just 10g.

Secondly, Surrey Space Centre’s novel discharge initiation system uses a mechanical contact trigger built out of a tiny piezoelectric motor only 5mm in length. This takes up less space than the conventional spark plug system which requires volume intensive circuitry.

A video of the Pulsed Plasma Thruster firing can be seen st

Download a video of the STRaND-1 presentation given at the 2011 AMSAT-UK International Space Colloquium in Guildford from

A six page article on STRaND-1 appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of the AMSAT-UK publication OSCAR News available for download at

UK Amateur Radio Smartphone CubeSat STRaND-1

STRaND on Facebook

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

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

UK Amateur Radio Smartphone CubeSat STRaND-1

UK Space Agency boost for tomorrow’s tiny space tech.

Sixteen UK space labs and companies are set to benefit from the latest round of the UK Space Agency’s National Space Technology Programme (NSTP) which will spur innovation in the fast-moving area of space technology known as ‘cubesats’.Artist's impression of a CubeSat. Credit: AMSAT-UK.

Artist’s impression of a CubeSat.
Credit: AMSAT-UK.

Cubesats are tiny, low-cost spacecraft – weighing only a few kilos – which can be launched ‘piggy-back’ on larger spacecraft. Many of today’s cubesats are proving to be great educational projects helping students hone practical skills in building and operating satellites. However, with advances in technology, many experts believe they will also be used for cutting-edge science or operational uses in the future.

The UK is already the world leader in small satellites through Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL). Ten years ago, SSTL benefited from UK government investment helping it to grow into a world-class company. Today, the UK Space Agency is following the same road to space innovation by supporting cubesat technology. Already, UKube-1 – a sophisticated nanosat with an imager, scientific and educational payloads – is being built by leading cubesat company Clyde Space Ltd. in Scotland.

Now, eleven new research projects supported by £310k of grants from the National Space Technology Programme (PDF, 18 Kb)  will drive the next steps in British cubesat know-how.

“It’s going to be exciting to see what emerges”

Dr Chris Castelli, programme manager at the UK Space Agency explains: “We received 30 proposals to our recent competition and have now selected the best ones to fund. We’ve got a great range of ideas – from new technology such as wireless on-board monitoring and tiny thrusters to give cubesats their own manoeuvring capability; to practical uses such as bioscience and space-weather monitoring. All these ideas will feed into our thinking for a successor to UKube-1, which we hope to select in 2013. It’s going to be exciting to see what emerges.”

Cubesats represent only one part of the Agency’s innovation agenda which also encompasses giant communications satellites such as Alphasat and the exploration of the Universe through missions such as Herschel and Planck.

UK Space Agency logo