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Microsatellites in perspective

Department of Engineering's Fifth Annual Industry Lecture

On Tuesday, February 25, Professor Sir Martin Sweeting gave the Department of Engineering's Fifth Annual Industry Lecture at the University of Leicester. Professor Sir Martin Sweeting is head of Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. Besides designing and building satellites, the team at Surrey control them once they are launched. The following is a summary of the main points of his interesting and thought-provoking Lecture:

Like computing, space has become accessible to the consumer. Space is no
longer the preserve of a few 'super-powers' with the ability to commit
enormous sums to grandiose projects in order to achieve economic, military
or cultural advantage over less wealthy adversaries - or, indeed, friends.

The rapid advancement of low-cost, mass-produced commercial and consumer
micro-electronics has catalysed the use of smaller and more computationally
capable satellites to provide a faster, cheaper, and more flexible means of
realising space missions.

Nowadays, rather than space providing the leading-edge technology, it is often the terrestrial consumer and leisure markets that drive advances in technology - indeed, 'space qualified' components are becoming very scarce and impose 20th century capabilities on 21st century missions.

In particular, microsatellites have revolutionised Earth observation from space - now providing a capability similar to LANDSAT and SPOT but at 1/50th the cost and now making EO constellations economic. The microsatellite has truly revolutionised access to space and is poised to have the same impact on space as the Personal Computer (PC) has achieved for computing.

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Last updated: 28 February 2003 10:55
Created by: Barbara Whiteman

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