Experimental Minisatellite Set For Russian Missile Launch
History will be made later this week when an experimental British satellite is carried into orbit by a demilitarised Russian intercontinental ballistic missile. Surrey Satellite Technology's groundbreaking UoSAT-12 will be the first commercial payload for the Dnepr launch vehicle, formerly known to military analysts as the SS-18 ICBM. Launch from Baikonur cosmodrome in the Republic of Kazakhstan is currently scheduled for Wednesday, 21 April.
The 350 kg UoSAT-12 is the largest, most advanced, satellite yet built by Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL), and marks the company's latest step towards providing reliable and affordable access to space. During its five year design life, the minisatellite is intended to demonstrate advanced microwave digital communications and Earth observation payloads. It also carries novel propulsion, attitude control, and navigation experiments. These include a communications payload for Merlion Communications (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) and an attitude determination payload, developed in collaboration with the European Space Technology Centre in The Netherlands, which uses Global Positioning System satellites.
UoSAT-12 is the only payload on the Dnepr's maiden launch. It will be inserted into a 650 km orbit, inclined at 65 degrees to the equator, which will take it over all of the world's densely populated regions. Its remote sensing payloads include a wide angle camera, and two advanced, high resolution multispectral (colour) and panchromatic (black and white) imaging systems.
The multispectral camera operates in visible and near-infrared wavelengths and has an optimum spatial resolution of 40 metres, while the panchromatic camera can detect features on the ground as small as 9 metres across - comparable to the resolution obtainable from cameras on much larger remote sensing satellites.
These digital cameras will be used to demonstrate future possibilities for low cost studies of meteorology, vegetation cover, rivers and coastlines, as well as monitoring sudden changes such as floods, deforestation and other man-made or natural disasters.
While data from UoSAT-12 will usually be stored on board for subsequent transmission to the SSTL ground station, amateur radio enthusiasts around the world should also be able to receive the signals.
"We shall be putting the satellite and its payloads through their paces to determine their capabilities," said SSTL spokeswoman Audrey Nice. "We will then be in a position to offer such minisatellites to commercial users."
Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, a company owned by the University of Surrey, has designed, built and launched 14 microsatellites since its creation in 1985. SSTL has already built and launched 14 microsatellites for international customers. These are controlled and operated in orbit from SSTL's mission control centre at the Surrey Space Centre.
UoSAT-12 is the result of a £5.5 million research and development investment by SSTL. After UoSAT-12, the company has three more microsatellites scheduled for launch this year - Tiungsat (Malaysia), PICOSat (U.S. Air Force) and Tsinghua-1 (China). In addition, SSTL was recently awarded a $17 million contract with DBSI in the United States to build the platforms for a constellation of six microsatellites.
The commercial version of the SS-18 missile has been renamed Dnepr in recognition of the river that flows from Russia to Ukraine. It also recognises that the historic launch contract between International Space Company (ISC) Kosmotras and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) was made possible by an agreement between the Russian Space Agency and the National Space Agency of Ukraine. Under the provisions of the START treaty - which provides for the elimination of SS-18 missiles by the year 2007, either by commercial launch or physical destruction - strategic missiles may be converted for peaceful use as commercial launch vehicles.
The SS-18 required only minor modifications to be transformed into a satellite launcher. Integration of the satellite took place with the missile still inside its silo. The basic version of the Dnepr can place a payload of up to 4 metric tons into near-Earth orbit. If necessary, it can be equipped with an additional upper stage for larger payloads and/or higher orbits.
Further information and images are also available on the Web at: http://www.sstl.co.uk/