British spacecraft manufacturers, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), have completed thermal vacuum tests on three spacecraft, UK-DMC, NigeriaSat-1 and BILSAT-1. The 100kg enhanced microsatellites will form part of the international Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC).
The tests were conducted using the large Space Test Chamber at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire where each spacecraft was subjected to hot and cold cycles within a temperature range of +60 C to -20 C.
In addition, vacuum tests replicated the 'non-atmospheric' environment in which the satellites will operate in-orbit some 686km above the Earth. Thermal vacuum tests ran over a 5-day, 24-hour period with each subsystem tested individually within the extremes of environment.
All three satellites will be launched in July, completing the first constellation of microsatellites providing daily earth imaging dedicated to disaster mitigation and monitoring. AlSAT-1, the first satellite of the constellation, was launched last November and is fully operational.
Two of the satellites carry space technology experiments as well as their DMC remote sensing payloads. UK-DMC hosts a high capacity 1-Gbyte solid data recorder, a micropropulsion experiment that will qualify an ultra-low cost system for future nanosatellites and a GPS reflectometry payload to look for reflections of GPS signals from the sea surface.
BILSAT experiments include two payloads designed and built by SSTL's Turkish customer, TUBITAK-ODTU-BILTEN. The first, named COBAN, is a nine-band low resolution multi-spectral imager.
The second, named GEZGIN, is a DSP based image processing module that uses the JPEG2000 algorithm to compress images taken by BILSAT-1's on board cameras.
Both of these payloads were designed and built by BILTEN engineers in the context of the KHTT (Know How Training and Transfer) programme that ran in parallel with the BILSAT project.
The Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) is a novel international co-operation in space, led by SSTL bringing together organisations from seven countries: Algeria, China, Nigeria, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Vietnam.
The DMC Consortium is forming the first-ever microsatellite constellation bringing remarkable Earth observation capabilities both nationally to the individual satellite owners, and internationally to benefit world-wide humanitarian aid efforts.
The first satellite in the DMC, AlSAT-1 for Algeria, was launched on 28 November 2002 and is fully operational in orbit, delivering outstanding Earth observation imagery.
AlSAT-1 will be joined in orbit by a further three satellites for Nigeria, Turkey and the UK in July 2003 -- all built at the Surrey Space Centre in Guildford.
The spacecraft for Algeria, Nigeria and Turkey were built under know-how transfer and training programmes, whereby a team of engineers from each country spent 18 months at Surrey working alongside SSTL engineers.
Each satellite, weighing some 90kg, will provide 32-metre multispectral Earth observation imaging, covering a vast 600 x 600km area anywhere on the Earth's surface. The images cover ten times more area, compared with images of less than 200 x 200km currently available from other civilian Earth observation satellites.
Also unique is the ability to re-image anywhere on the Earth's surface within 24-hours -- something not achievable by any other satellite currently in-orbit. These powerful resources place the DMC in a distinctive position to provide Earth observation images to the international disaster relief community in partnership with Reuters AlertNet.
The International Disaster Monitoring Constellation is a further example of a new generation of advanced small satellites pioneered by SSTL -- providing outstanding capability at low cost. The DMC will demonstrate how a network of small satellites can work together to provide valuable operational services at exceptionally low cost.
Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd
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