CIRCE Space Weather Suite Announced for First UK Satellite Launch

CIRCE CAD models courtesy of Blue Canyon Technologies.

Dstl’s miniaturised space weather instrumentation suite will be aboard Virgin Orbit which is aiming to launch from Spaceport Cornwall later in 2022.

LONDON (Dstl PR) — The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s (Dstl) miniaturised space weather instrumentation suite will be one of the payloads aboard Virgin Orbit which is targeting the first UK satellite launch this summer from Spaceport Cornwall in Newquay. Virgin Orbit’s Launcher One rocket takes off horizontally, carried aloft by a modified Boeing 747 jet, named Cosmic Girl.

The Coordinated Ionospheric Reconstruction Cubesat Experiment (CIRCE) satellite mission comprises two 6U cube-satellites that will be launched into a near-polar low Earth orbit in a string-of-pearls configuration (targeting 555 kilometres altitude). Each 6U satellite bus measures 10cm by 20cm by 30cm (the size of a cereal box), and will fly almost identical instrument capability on both satellites. Dstl is partnering with the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) on the joint mission.

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UK Space Agency Provides New Funding to Support Sustainable Future of Space

Distribution of space debris. (Credit: ESA)
  • Space debris is a major threat to the satellite services we rely on
  • 13 projects involve industry and academia across the UK

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — The UK Space Agency is providing £1.7 million [US $2.3 million] for new projects to support sustainable space operations, Science Minister George Freeman announced today.

The 13 new projects will help track and remove dangerous debris in space. They include an AI-based tool which can take autonomous action to avoid a collision and another which will see multiple small spacecraft fired at debris before taking it into the atmosphere to dispose of it.

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Surrey Satellite to Lead UK Space Agency Project to Study Active De-orbit of Space Debris

Novel technology will be required for these ambitious steps, which are proposed as part of the new ‘Protect’ Accelerator, one of three currently being defined to help shape Europe’s future in space. (Credit: ESA)

The LEOPARD (Low Earth Orbit Pursuit for Active Debris Removal) study will define concepts for de-orbiting 2 uncooperative UK space assets from low earth orbit

GUILDFORD, UK (Surrey Satellite PR) — Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has been selected to lead a UK Space Agency study to define the mission requirements for a complex mission to de-orbit two non-operational space debris targets. SSTL is a world-leader in the manufacture and in-orbit operation of small satellites, and has valuable experience in two previous Active Debris Removal (ADR) demonstration missions; RemoveDEBRIS, which concluded a series of debris retrieval demonstrations in January 2019, and Astroscale’s 2021 ELSA-d mission for which SSTL supplied the Client “target” satellite.

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SSTL Secures ESA InCubed Funding to Improve Data Throughput for Small EO Satellites

GUILDFORD, UK (Surrey Satellite PR) — Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has secured European Space Agency InCubed programme financial and technical support to demonstrate a high throughput, flexible and intelligent payload downlink chain for small Earth Observation satellites. Currently advanced and innovative satellite imaging payloads are producing data with ever increasing dimensionality, volume and rates which can exceed small satellite’s downlink bandwidth.

To tackle the onboard data bottleneck SSTL is leading a consortium that includes the University of Surrey and Craft Prospect Limited to develop and demonstrate new capabilities for SSTL’s Flexible & Intelligent Payload Chain (FIPC) solution. The FIPC’s advanced hardware architecture enables a new intelligent and adaptive data downlink and a state-of-the-art framework for software defined onboard data processing to realise a payload chain capable of handling the throughput rates of future small Earth Observation satellites. The framework enables processing applications which include data calibration and image compression to Machine Learning (ML) for image classification and information extraction towards greater satellite autonomy. 

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There She Floats! RemoveDEBRIS Satellite Successfully Test Harpoon in Orbit

SURREY, UK (University of Surrey PR) — The RemoveDEBRIS satellite, one of the world’s first attempts to address the build-up of dangerous space debris, has successfully used its on-board harpoon-capture system in orbit.

The Airbus Stevenage designed harpoon featured a 1.5 metre boom deployed from the main RemoveDEBRIS spacecraft with a piece of satellite panel on the end. The harpoon was fired at 20 metres/sec to penetrate the target and demonstrate the ability of a harpoon to capture debris.

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University of Surrey to Lead new £29 Million AI and Robotics Space Hub

SURREY, England (University of Surrey PR) — The University of Surrey is set to lead the country’s efforts in breakthrough, space-focused artificial intelligence and robotics research, thanks to a new £29million [$38.3 million] hub.

The Future AI and Robotics for Space (FAIR-SPACE) Hub will be funded through a £6.7 million [$8.85 million] grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the UK Space Agency (UKSA), as well as £22.3 million [29.47 million] from over twenty space organisations.

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EADS-Astrium to Test New Plasma Thruster

An interesting item from Bulletins-electroniques.com via the CNES website:

A new type of plasma thruster (helicon double layer) invented by a physicist from the Australian National University (ANU) some years ago will be tested in a prototype satellite to be launched into space over the next four years . This is the first propellant propellant of this type and it will be the first time a spacecraft will use this type of propellant.

The project funded by the European company EADS Astrium will be collaboration between the ANU, the University of Surrey and EADS-Astrium. The propellant will be based on the double layer thruster helicon (HDLT for Helicon Double Layer Thruster) developed at the ANU. The principle of propulsion based on the electrostatic acceleration of a plasma by an electrical double layer.