TechDemoSat-1 proves ongoing value of in-orbit testing

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The Satellite Applications Catapult and space community is today celebrating the second anniversary of TechDemoSat-1 (TDS-1).

TDS-1 is an innovative low-cost in-orbit test bed for the UK space industry and academia to trial new instruments and software to prove prototypes in space. Its payloads feature a new generation of star trackers, gyros, magnetometers and torque rods. The Catapult’s payload operations team is responsible for payload planning, operations and long-term data archiving.

Stuart Martin, CEO of the Satellite Applications Catapult, said: “From our Missions Operation Centre in Harwell, we’ve supported the TechDemoSat-1 mission since before its launch. We’ve worked with Surrey Satellite Technologies Ltd (SSTL) to showcase our facilities and skills that will enable UK industry and academia to qualify on-board payloads and UK satellite software. We’re increasingly confident that the mission’s continued success will overcome the problem of a lack of in-orbit flight heritage that often becomes a major barrier to commercial success in the space industry.”

Eight payloads were initially launched on TDS-1, and most are operational and collecting data – some of which is already being used by NASA, the European Space Agency, the National Oceanography Centre, and the academic community.

Tim Just, Head of Space at the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, said: “Innovate UK’s recent announcement about the œ1.5 million In-Orbit Demonstrator programme will extend the success achieved by TechDemoSat-1, by giving innovative businesses across the UK the opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities in space.”

TDS-1 was developed at SSTL as an Innovate UK-funded project, with support from the UK Space Agency. It is the first of a series of UK demonstration satellites aiming to provide a rapid, affordable means of demonstrating, testing and proving the next generation of space hardware in orbit.

TDS-1 has a nominal operations lifespan of three years, with a scheduled mission end of July 2017.