Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

SSTL wins NASA contract to study Internet from space
Posted: July 10, 2000

The UoSAT-12 spacecraft during pre-launch testing. Photo: SSTL
Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has won a $60,000 study contract to investigate the potential for the SSTL minisat-400 spacecraft to operate with communications service providers using Internet Protocols.

A long standing requirement of the international space industry has been to provide a worldwide standard for space communications. Until now, satellite operators have been using their own protocol to communicate with spacecraft to the exclusion of other users. Internet Protocols (IP) provide ultimate compatibility for PC users from around the world to communicate, very simply, with spacecraft in-orbit. Satellite operators will be able to download data files from spacecraft directly to their own PC without the need to be in the groundstation. Internet routing will automatically route the requests to whichever groundstation is currently in view of the spacecraft as it orbits the Earth.

Over the last 6 months, Surrey engineers have been using UoSAT-12 -- a demonstration minisatellite designed and built by SSTL -- as a test bed for research into IP. This latest NASA contract is for SSTL to evaluate the range of suitable architectures and technologies to provide IP-based satellite services. An important part of the study will be to identify critical gaps in technology, where modest investment can make a significant long-term impact on the way NASA Enterprises conduct their space missions.

In March, SSTL was awarded a $120,000 NASA contract for the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Mission Study to investigate the range of suitable concepts for a five-spacecraft mission to investigate the Earth's magnetosphere.

SSTL is the only non-US supplier to NASA's Rapid Spacecraft Acquisition Program for both its microsatellite and minisatellite platforms.