Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd may be small, but it is showing the world that you don’t need to be as big as NASA or ESA to compete in the world of satellite communications.

Based just a few miles away from Farnborough in Guildford, SSTL was recently snapped up by EADS Astrium after the University of Surrey decided to sell its majority stake of 85% in the small satellite manufacturer.

SSTL specialises in the design and manufacture of small and micro satellites and the Astrium deal will provide the financial and industrial resources it needs to expand. The company was formed in 1985 by the University of Surrey to manufacture and operate high-performance, low-cost, small satellites.

SSTL now employs more than 250 staff working on low Earth orbit and interplanetary missions and also provides know-how transfer, training and consultancy services, including studies for ESA and NASA.


It started off building small satellites for use by radio amateurs in the early 1980s – its UoSAT series had innovative digi-talkers that “spoke” their various parameters on easily received VHF frequencies.

Move forward 20-odd years and its UK-DMC-2, scheduled for build completion in September 2008, is a new Earth observation satellite that will be used for disaster monitoring.

SSTL business development and sales director Paul Brooks says: “This generation of SSTL DMC satellites will have ten times the capability of the first generation and at the same price - only five years after the first generation was launched. This typifies SSTL’s continuous and rapid development of capability that has been so successfully used for environmental monitoring, communications and in the European Galileo navigation programme.”

SSTL also recently secured a contract worth €1.6 million from Astrium on a new contract to develop and supply the Multi-Spectral Imager (MSI) for the European Space Agency’s (ESA) EarthCARE Mission.

Company chairman and founder, Professor Sir Martin Sweeting, recently won the 2008 Sir Arthur Clarke Lifetime Achievement Award for his pioneering development of small satellites using low-cost engineering techniques.

On receiving the award, Sir Martin commented: “It is a great honour to receive this award and especially in the month during which Sir Arthur sadly passed away. As a teenager, I was captivated by Sir Arthur’s books and particularly the film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, which inspired me to strive for a career in space.”

Source: Flight International