Surrey Satellite targets 2010 to be £100m firm

“We have got most of the contracts already in the bag,” business development manager Phil Davis told EW.

Started at Surrey University in 1985, the firm initially specialised in microsatellites, growing to $10m in 2000.

Its business model was, and still is to a great extent, selling packages including a satellite, a launch and training to non-space-faring nations who want a space presence.

“Because of the link with the University, we are in a unique position for theoretical and practical training,”_said Davis. _“Some of these people have gone on to develop their own capability: South Africa and South Korea are examples. And some of these contracts lead to orders for higher performance satellites later on.”

The firm’s newer market is governments and commercial companies with a specific job to do – Europe’s first Galileo navigation satellite was built by SSTL. “We are doing a five satellite constellation called RapidEye which with gather information for precision farming and agri-insurance,” said Davis. “We have lowered the price point so you can have a constellation which will cover everywhere in the world every 24 hours. With a single satellite, you only get an image opportunity every 10 days.”

The firm is vertically integrated, making its chassis, electronics, rocket motors and, with the recent acquisition of an optical products group in Kent, cameras.
In 1999, SSTL was the first customer for Russia’s Dnepr rocket. It will use it again for RapidEye. “These are converted SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missiles,” said Davis. They have hundreds and they are very reliable.”

The future also holds an unusual mission. MoonLITE, due for launch in 2011/12, will orbit the moon providing geological remote sensing and communication for other moon missions, as well as dropping geo-physical penetrators into the surface.

Author: EARSC

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