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UK space companies collaborate on SAR technology

Posted on 19 Apr 2019 and read 1161 times
UK space companies collaborate on SAR technologyTwo of the UK’s leading space-sector companies — Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) and Oxford Space Systems (OSS) — have been awarded National Space Technology Programme funding to develop an innovative and stowage-efficient Synthetic Aperture Radar system (SAR uses the motion of a satellite to simulate a system with a much larger antenna).

This new technology is a key enabler for the next-generation of SAR services from orbit, where there are currently no low-volume deployable SAR ‘payload solutions’ that meet the cost and lead time requirements of NewSpace opportunities (this term is used to refer to a global sector of new aerospace companies and ventures working independently of governments and traditional major contractors).

OSS’s expertise in novel deployable antennas combined with SSTL’s extensive experience with small cost-competitive satellites is said to deliver “a powerful collaboration designed to successfully address this global market opportunity”.

The innovative SAR payload will be exclusively developed in the UK and will comprise a highly stowage-efficient deployable antenna from OSS and a high-bandwidth radar instrument and RF system from SSTL (sstl.co.uk).

Successful completion of the project will enable the OSS antenna to be flown on a future demonstration mission from SSTL (targeted for a 2021 launch).

Although an essential part of many geostationary telecoms satellites and likely to form a critical part of a large number of smaller Low Earth Orbit spacecraft, Europe does not currently have a flight-proven deployable antenna solution.

Existing deployable reflector antenna technologies tend to fold like an umbrella into a long cylindrical form, which is not compatible with small launch envelopes; there are also significant structural challenges involved in supporting the cylindrical antenna during launch.

The OSS (oxford.space) novel deployable ‘wrapped-rib’ SAR antenna is highly stowage-efficient and deploys from a ‘doughnut’ type configuration.