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SSTL to develop low cost lunar orbiter for NASA

Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has been awarded a contract for the study phase of a potential joint US-UK lunar orbiter mission to be called Magnolia.

This first phase of the contract will run for 9-months, culminating in a preliminary mission design. The contract includes a package of training by SSTL and the University of Surrey that will allow Mississippi State University (MSU) and NASA Stennis Space Center staff to benefit from the know-how accrued by SSTL over the last 25 years, across 27 small satellite missions.

Commenting on the contract award, MSU's David Shaw stated: "MSU is committed to developing a small satellite capability in Mississippi and believes that SSTL is the best partner with whom to achieve that aim". SSTL's founder and Group Executive Chairman, Sir Martin Sweeting, added: "We are delighted to be working with our US partners on this programme and look forward to the exciting possibility of a joint US-UK lunar mission. SSTL is committed to driving down the cost of space missions in Earth orbit and beyond."

In 2006, SSTL performed a lunar exploration design study for the UK government's Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (Footnote 1). The study was supported by a group of UK scientists and showed the feasibility of a pair of low cost missions known as MoonLITE and MoonRaker.

SSTL has already developed equipment for interplanetary missions such as the Rosetta comet chaser and recently delivered a payload processor for a US radar to fly onboard the 2008 Indian lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1. Looking further into space, SSTL has performed a European Space Agency feasibility study for a low cost mission to Venus and has studied potential missions to near-Earth asteroids and Earth re-entry for the future return of samples from Mars. Magnolia marks SSTL's next step beyond low Earth Orbit.

The next phase of the Magnolia mission is planned to start in 2008 and could lead to the launch of the mission in 2010.

The contract, between MSU and SSTL follows the signing of a Joint Statement of Intent between NASA and the UK's BNSC (Footnote 2).

Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) develops innovative technologies to change the economics of space, delivering cost effective satellite missions within rapid timescales. The Company is a world leader in the design, manufacture and operation of high performance small satellites with experience gained over more than 25 years and 27 missions launched.

SSTL employs 250 staff working on LEO, GEO and interplanetary missions, turnkey satellite platforms and space-proven satellite subsystems and optical systems. The Company also provides know-how transfer and training programmes and consultancy services, and performs studies for ESA, NASA and commercial customers related to platform design, mission analysis and planning.

Based in Guildford, UK, SSTL is owned by the University of Surrey (85%), SSTL staff (5%), and SpaceX of the USA (10%).

Stuart Miller | alfa
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