Five UK satel­lites go into or­bit on In­dian rocket

Bhutan Times - - Neighbour -

The DMC-3 satel­lites see fea­tures on the ground down to a me­tre across

An In­dian rocket has put five UK satel­lites in or­bit.

It is thought to be the largest num­ber of wholly Bri­tish-built space­craft to go up on a sin­gle launch.

The quin­tet in­cludes three satel­lites to im­age the Earth and sup­port dis­as­ter mon­i­tor­ing and re­lief, and two to test tech­nolo­gies that could be used on fu­ture space­craft.

The In­dian space agency’s PSLV rocket lifted off from Sri­harikota at 21:58 lo­cal time (17:28 BST).

It was the ve­hi­cle’s heav­i­est load to date - a to­tal of 1,440kg.

The trio of imag­ing space­craft - known as DMC-3 - were built by Sur­rey Satel­lite Tech­nol­ogy Ltd (SSTL) in Guild­ford and will be in the sole op­er­a­tional con­trol of its sub­sidiary, DMCii.

Each plat­form weighs 447kg and sees the Earth in a range of vis­i­ble and in­frared wave­lengths.

The res­o­lu­tion achieved by the op­tics sur­passes that on any of Sur­rey Satel­lite’s pre­vi­ous space­craft, track­ing fea­tures down to just a me­tre across.

The imag­ing satel­lites will be con­trolled from the UK

The ca­pac­ity on the DMC-3 satel­lites has been leased to a com­pany from China - 21st Cen­tury Aerospace Tech­nol­ogy Ltd (21AT) - to help them sur­vey the fast-grow­ing Asian na­tion.

This is a dif­fer­ent busi­ness model to the one SSTL and DMCii have tra­di­tion­ally used.

In the past, imag­ing data has been sold by the square kilo­me­tre. Merely leas­ing space­craft time is some­thing that is done in the tele­coms sec­tor.

“Most folk don’t buy a whole telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lite; they buy transpon­der time by the hour,” ex­plained SSTL chair­man Sir Martin Sweet­ing.

“That’s what the BBC does, for ex­am­ple, for some of their live broad­casts: they just use the tele­coms satel­lite for a cou­ple of hours and then walk away.

“And we thought: why don’t we ap­ply that to Earth ob­ser­va­tion.

“We will launch the satel­lites and run the ser­vice, and then cus­tomers can come in, lease the imag­ing ca­pac­ity and do all the val­ueadded they want on top of that.”

It turns out, how­ever, that 21AT has such a high de­mand for pic­tures over China and in­ter­na­tion­ally that it is tak­ing all of the ca­pac­ity on the three space­craft. A com­mit­ment that is good for the next seven years.

Based in Bei­jing, the com­mer­cial geo- in­for­ma­tion com­pany uses satel­lite im­ages for ur­ban plan­ning, work­ing out crop yields, pol­lu­tion mon­i­tor­ing and do­ing bio­di­ver­sity assess­ments, among many other ap­pli­ca­tions.

“We’ve worked with them for 16 years, even build­ing and launch­ing a satel­lite for them in 2005 called Bei­jing-1,” said Sir Martin.

That satel­lite did in­fra­struc­ture plan­ning ahead of the 2008 Olympics, but also de­liv­ered vi­tal dis­as­ter-re­lief maps in the af­ter­math of the dev­as­tat­ing Wenchuan earth­quake in the same year.

“You can do all sorts of things with these satel­lites,” Sir Martin added.

“21AT has just been look­ing at where peo­ple have been dump­ing rub­bish in China’s cities to make sure it is cleaned up.”

The Bei­jing-1 satel­lite im­ages Is­tan­bul and the Bospho­rus strait

The Bri­tish gov­ern­ment was in­stru­men­tal in fa­cil­i­tat­ing the £110m deal that led to the con­struc­tion of the satel­lites. That con­tract was signed dur­ing the Chi­nese premier’s visit to the UK in 2011.

The two other space­craft on Fri­day’s rocket were much smaller.

An 80kg plat­form known as CBNT-1 was also built by SSTL and will test tech­nolo­gies, such as avionics, that might be used on fu­ture satel­lites.

There was also a 3kg cube sat on the rocket that was de­vel­oped at the Sur­rey Space Cen­tre, which is part of the Univer­sity of Sur­rey.

This cube sat will de­ploy a large mem­brane to demon­strate how re­dun­dant space­craft can be dragged out of or­bit much faster than would or­di­nar­ily be the case and thus re­duce the risk of gen­er­at­ing space de­bris.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Bhutan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.