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Catapult Satellite Applications

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Lumi Space

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Lumi Space validate unique space sustainability solutions with Catapult support.


Route to Impact

As more satellites are launched into orbit, the importance of accurately tracking and managing space objects and debris has increased. Low Earth orbit congestion increases the likelihood of collisions, which threatens satellites and the vital services they provide. Lumi Space is developing a ground-based laser tracking system to pinpoint small objects in space with centimetre-level precision to avoid crashes and enable novel applications, such as active debris removal and guide in-orbit servicing. Their solution will be cheaper than current alternatives, making it a more financially viable option to commercial enterprises.

Supported by Innovate UK, Lumi Space turned to the Satellite Applications Catapult to produce metal retroreflectors and to conduct long-distance testing of laser ranging hardware. In validating the solution in a relevant environment, Lumi Space has opened the door to new funding and commercial opportunities.

Solution

Lumi Space are using lasers to accurately track objects in orbit to improve space traffic management and reduce the risk of space debris collisions. Commercially available precision Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) will improve space sustainability by allowing satellite operators to track their payloads to avoid congestion and collisions. This could enable novel applications, such as active debris removal, or guide in-orbit servicing and the refuelling of satellites.

Lumi Space using our Far Field Antenna Test Range at Harwell Campus.

Satellite Applications Catapult supported Lumi Space with their grant funding application for Innovate UK’s EDGE SME Growth Fund. The Catapult provided commercially viable access to prototyping equipment at its Disruptive Innovation for Space Centre (DISC) in Harwell and expertise to produce metal retroreflectors in the Westcott Innovation Centre.

Novel approaches to Satellite Laser Ranging were tested in collaboration with the Catapult at the Far Field Range in Harwell Campus. The Catapult’s Far Field Range facility was ideal to put the optical and laser technology through its paces in an outdoor environment. A low-cost approach to precision ranging was demonstrated. It is scalable to orbit and paves the way for a global unique service.

Vibration testing of lightweight retroreflectors at the DISC facility


“The use of these facilities has been invaluable; we wouldn’t be able to safely perform these tests so quickly without them. The assistance from Catapult staff was excellent and we look forward to working together again.”

Dr. Hira Virdee, CEO of Lumi Space


Outcomes

The support concluded in a new product for market – the world’s first space grade low-cost off-the-shelf laser retroreflector. This product will enable satellite operators to benefit from precision space situational awareness to enhance their own sustainability and unlock new markets. It also Increased the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of Lumi’s laser ranging technology from TRL 4 (component lab testing) to TRL 6 (demonstrating system in a relevant environment).

In 2021, Lumi Space was also awarded a grant through the National Space Technology Programme (NSTP) from the UK Space Agency (UKSA), to further develop the UK’s capabilities in precision space surveillance and tracking. During the grant funding, the laser testing hardware was developed and enabled Lumi Space to take a significant step forward with their laser range development.

The Future

With support from Satellite Applications Catapult, Lumi Space has made vital progress in their innovative approach to Satellite Laser Ranging and validation process, which will ultimately yield critical benefits for the satellite industry on a global scale and promote the sustainable management of near-Earth orbits.