All four satellites for Surrey's in international the international Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC), co-ordinated by SSTL, have reached their designated targeted orbit stations in preparation for full operation of the this unique network of Earth observation microsatellites.
This is the first time a civil constellation of microsatellites has been formed and where the satellite's have manouevred themselves using on-board GPS navigation.
The DMC satellites were launched in two phasesstages: the first in November 2002 for Algeria (AlSAT-1) and the second in September 2003, when satellites were launched for Nigeria (NigeriaSat-1), Turkey (BILSAT-1) and the UK (UK-DMC).
The satellites needed to be moved into precisely the same 686km orbit and then phased (spread out) around the orbit plane in order to provide adjacent imaging passes over the surface of the Earth.
Orbit phasing has been achieved through a series of firings by each satellite's onboard electro-thermal propulsion system, with accurate orbit position and velocity data provided by on-board GPS receivers.
Both the onboard resistojet propulsion systems and GPS receivers were designed and built by SSTL. The satellites have sufficient on-board propellant to maintain their orbit stations for at least 5 years.
AlSAT-1, BILSAT-1, NigeriaSat-1 and UK-DMC are now at their nominal phase slots of 0, 90, 180, and 270 degrees around the DMC orbit which enables the constellation to image anywhere on the surface of the Earth with a 24-hour revisit.
SSTL is currently installing mission planning systems across the consortium of DMC satellite owners to move from the initial individual national satellite operations to the fully co-ordinated constellation tasking, imaging, data retrieval and processing.
This will mean thatis due to become operational during the summer so that any DMC partner may schedule a series of images over a site of interest sharing the resources of all four satellites and the dispersed ground stations.
Once the co-ordinated constellation systems are commissioned and tested, the DMC Consortium will be ready to begin supplying daily images for support of disaster response, initially in partnership with Reuters AlertNet.
The DMC is an innovative concept designed by SSTL, bringing together a unique partnership of nations and providing a sustainable space programme for nations who might otherwise be unable to afford their own independent space capability.
As collaborative partners, these countries are able to reap the benefits of sharing a powerful constellation resource - not just one satellite, but four (five as from May 2005 when the China DMC+4 satellite is launched into the constellation).
Each partner is able to operate completely independently, but may also share unused capacity with other partners to gain the benefit of daily Earth imaging. They will also enjoy greater flexibility in down-linking data through partner ground stations around the world as and when required.
The DMC's Earth imaging data is already attracting considerable commercial interest that will lead to the generation of income from each satellite - an important element of any sustainable space programme.
Surrey Satellite Technology
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Surrey Successfully Demonstrates Steam Micro-Propulsion In-Orbit
Guildford - Mar 17, 2004
SSTL have demonstrated in-orbit the use of a steam propulsion system onboard the UK-DMC satellite, launched on 27th September 2003.
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