UK ‘knitted satellite’ will see Earth day or night

Harwell based Oxford Space Systems and  Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd collaboration to launch In-Orbit Demonstration mission to showcase innovative Wrapped Rib antenna

Oxford Space Systems (OSS) and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) have confirmed a partnership to build and launch an OSS Wrapped Rib antenna mounted to an SSTL CarbSAR satellite.

The work has been jointly funded by OSS, SSTL, Airbus Defence and Space, the National Security Strategic Investment Fund (NSSIF, HM Government’s corporate venturing arm for national security and defence technologies, ) and the MoD, and is proving a ground breaking Synthetic Aperture Radar concept which may be of significant interest to UK defence ISR strategies in the near to medium term future.

Surveillance, change detection and “big data” analytics applications are driving interest in spaceborne SAR data, to support day/night and all-weather imaging at a rate faster than can be achieved with any individual satellite.

The Oxford Space Systems Wrapped Rib Antenna for Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) enables high resolution imaging from small satellite earth observation missions, irrespective of weather conditions or daylight. These antennas deploy carbon-fibre ribs from a central hub to form a 3m diameter parabolic dish supporting a high performing metal mesh reflector surface. This UK developed antenna technology has a uniquely compact stowed configuration and achieves a highly cost-efficient performance when deployed in orbit. The antenna has successfully completed an extensive ground-based test programme.

Sean Sutcliffe (CEO, Oxford Space Systems) said:

“This In-Orbit Demonstration mission will allow us to build on our relationship with SSTL and accelerate our product development and industrialisation programme for the game changing Wrapped Rib SAR antenna. The support of NSSIF is a huge vote of confidence in the technology and the capability of Oxford Space Systems to support future UK requirements. I am delighted that the antenna for the IOD mission is being built in our newly commissioned facilities that will establish our production capability for future export sales. ”

Andrew Cawthorne, Business Development Director of SSTL, said:

“Announcing a new satellite mission is one of the most exciting things we get to do here at SSTL. And that excitement is amplified when the mission in question is CarbSAR, a variant of our Carbonite range, and a mission part-funded by our Shareholder Airbus Defence & Space. CarbSAR is a compelling UK success story on its own, as well as a necessary step towards the bigger spacecraft required for the UK’s Space ambitions. The integration of our latest generation 100Kg Satellite platform and SAR electronics with OSS’s revolutionary wrapped rib antenna is a mission we will be very proud to launch.”

An NSSIF spokesperson said:

“NSSIF is delighted to be collaborating with Oxford Space Systems and supporting their plan to industrialise delivery of antennas to satellite constellation programmes. Working with businesses like Oxford Space Systems contributes to NSSIF’s objectives of accelerating the adoption of future national security and defence capabilities and supporting development of the UK’s dual-use technology ecosystem”.