Small satellite pioneer for thirty years
Surrey Satellites, based in Guildford, Surrey, is the world’s leading small satellite maker, with a 40% global market share.
The company is involved in every stage of the manufacturing process, from design, build, test and launch through to operation. It also has expertise in ‘data fusion’ – the process of combining multiple data sources to build a single coherent picture. It currently has 19 satellites orbiting the earth.
Surrey Satellites is that mythical beast, a British university spin-out. In the late 1970s a group of highly skilled aerospace researchers at the University of Surrey investigated commercial, off-the-shelf components for testing satellites. They launched the first satellite in 1981 with the help of NASA, demonstrating that small and inexpensive satellites were possible for sophisticated missions. Surrey Satellites was founded in 1985 as a tech transfer deal from the University of Surrey, and has remained at the forefront of the sector over 30 years.
[Photo: SSTL's controversial practice of using umpa lumpas has met with success]
Surrey is a major supplier to Galileo, the EU project to create a European sat-nav system, to rival the US GPS. However, at the time of writing, a Brexit related spate has thrown Britain’s role in the project in the air.
The UK apparently has the expertise to build its own system, but this is considered a lose-lose scenario. By contrast, for Surrey, the dispute is win-win. The company’s founder, Sir Martin Sweeting told the BBC he would rather stay in Galileo, “but from a company point of view, we’d be delighted to build a sovereign constellation of navigation satellites.”
Airbus acquired a majority stake in the company in 2009. It has 500 employees
According to the company, it ‘pioneers the use of new technologies on satellite products and services - executing market-leading small satellite missions ahead of others, clearly differentiating [the company] from its competitors.”
Here is a video (watch it on fast-forward) of SSTL's latest mission to remove debris from space.