Mission Platforms

The Satellite Application Catapult supports the growth of the UK Space sector by developing novel mission operational concepts and supporting low-cost access to Space.

Identifying the issues

Trends in terrestrial technology have had an impact on satellite operations by enabling the construction of low-cost, small satellites – ‘nano-satellites’ – which operate together in ‘constellations’. These, in turn, support the creation of services that provide near-real-time information, which is more closely aligned with commercial operational needs.

However, there have been several ‘blockers’ associated with this trend, including:

  • Regulations
  • Business models for provision of downlink services for Earth observation satellites
  • Time taken to task satellites using conventional operational concept

This means that although the UK has innovative satellite manufacturers able to deliver small satellites at very low cost, it is lagging behind the rest of the world in responding to the opportunities offered by nano-satellites. Consequently, using these satellite constellations to provide professional commercial operational services is still generally too costly.

Providing Solutions

Our Missions and Operations team is responsible for providing the UK’s collaborative satellite missions and operations centre. We have core competencies in ground-segment design, mission planning and operations, and work with the UK Space communities to provide additional support for future operational missions.

In particular, we recognise that to unblock the full potential of small satellites, there is a requirement to:

  • Develop professional mission operations services for small and micro-satellites
  • Develop and exploit satellite-relay technology suitable for use with small satellites

Funding for these activities is available through the European Space Agency and UK national programmes.

Further Information about Mission Platforms

If you would like to talk to us about the use of small and nano-satellites, please email info@sa.catapult.org.uk.

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