Adina Gillespie, Head of Applications of Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd tells us how innovation is democratizing space.
Over the last three decades or so, the economics of getting a satellite into orbit have been transformed, democratizing space and the use of the data collected from sensors hundreds of miles above the earth. The opportunities presented by space technology have never been greater.
Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) is a UK university spin-out success story and has played an important role in this democratization. Founded by Sir Martin Sweeting and a group of academics looking for a low-cost way of building and launching a satellite, using off-the-shelf components and piggy-backing on rockets carrying a main payload, it paved the way for a new generation of smaller satellites and launch vehicles.
The company has more than 30 years’ experience developing space innovations. Some examples of these include the first microsatellite with in-orbit programmable computers (1981), the first internationally co-ordinated constellation of satellites for medium resolution imagery for disaster response (2002), the first Galileo GPS positioning satellite for Europe (2005), and the first momentum wheel to guide a lander to the surface of a comet (2014 Rosetta/Philae mission).
Democratization of space is accelerating, and the sector now faces welcome disruption from low-cost launches and it is exciting that the UK is looking to develop its own launch capability. Beyond the technology itself, the Space Industry Bill has set out a framework that we hope will put the UK at the leading edge of space regulation.
Just as important as launch pads and payloads is the new era of connectivity and data platforms that enable someone working from their garden shed to use the data from space – piggy-backing on widely available satellite imagery, navigation signals and software – to develop valuable new services.
The passion and talent in the space sector often results in our use of inaccessible language, giving the impression that it is only for space enthusiasts (and Star Wars aficionados!). The reality, however, is that there are huge opportunities for individuals, small businesses and large businesses to tap into the data and technology.
As the barriers to space come crashing down, there are no limits to what people in cities, towns and farms can do to create small and large businesses that can access local and international markets in our increasingly connected world. The key is following SSTL’s model for refusing to be stopped by the incumbents and antiquated thinking.
The North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence "Discover the Possibilities" Annual Conference takes place on Thursday 22nd March highlighting the business opportunities that exist for developing data-led satellite applications to solve industry challenges.
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