September 03, 2012
Over the last 20 years, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) has vastly expanded the potential for what smallsats can do in the areas of navigation, Earth observation and military applications.
Formed in the mid-1980s in response to a lack of government funding for U.K. space programs, SSTL has taken smallsats from a boutique enterprise championed by graduate students at the University of Surrey to a company that develops spacecraft for government and commercial operational use.
“We formed SSTL because the U.K. had decided to put all its national funding into the European Space Agency [ESA], and consequently all the national programs were essentially terminated,” says SSTL Executive Chairman Martin Sweeting. “We realized if we were to continue our work, we had to get external funding.”
Co-located with the university in Guilford, England, Sweeting says SSTL maintains close ties with the academic space center. “They act as our research group,” he says.
No longer a proving ground for new technologies, SSTL has launched 37 spacecraft to orbit and is producing 22 operational navigation payloads for Europe's Galileo satellite constellation. To keep pace with growing demand, the company recently expanded production with a new facility at Guilford.
“We'll be producing a satellite every six weeks,” says Phil Davies, business development director at SSTL.