Space conditions recreated at the University of Surrey

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Experts in space technology at the University of Surrey will get the chance to test small satellite thrusters in space-like conditions thanks to a new vacuum chamber facility.

The new Surrey Propulsion Lab (SPL) will house five vacuum chambers, as well as other equipment that enables the testing and analysis of propulsion systems that produce small milli-Newton levels of thrust.

The SPL recreates conditions in space so that testing and analysis can be carried out on the thrusters before they are launched beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.

Professor Vaios Lappas, of the Surrey Space Centre at the university said:  “The Surrey Propulsion Lab is a premier facility in the design, analysis, testing and space qualification of the current and next generation of small electric thrusters for space vehicles. This new facility capitalises on the unique synergy between academic and industry through the University of Surrey, EADS, its space and satellite division, Astrium, and EADS´ corporate research arm, EADS Innovation Works.

“Surrey is already working on two new types of novel, low cost/power electric thrusters  with its industrial partners for the STRaND-1 and TechDemosat-1 missions and is developing a new generation of micro electric thrusters which can enable new space mission concepts for space exploration, telecommunications, earth observation and deorbiting at a fraction of the cost compared to current technologies.”

The SPL includes the large vacuum chamber 'Daedalus', which has been funded by Astrium and refurbished in partnership with EADS Innovation Works UK.

‘Daedalus’ has three separate areas enabling the parallel testing of thrusters.  The main section is 2 x 3 metres and the other two chambers are smaller – 0.6 x 0.4 metres - and separated from the main chamber by gate valves, thereby enabling concurrent testing.

Dr. Sarah Barley, Research Team Leader, EADS Innovation Works UK, said: “The UK has strong expertise in electric propulsion systems and this facility at the University will enable detailed testing of novel concepts under highly controlled conditions. This is one of a handful of facilities capable of doing this kind of testing in Europe. “

Matthew Perren, Innovation Manager, Astrium, said: “Astrium is already at the cutting edge of new propulsion technologies, utilising the latest developments in ion propulsion for Europe’s next mission to Mercury – BepiColombo. The SPL will ensure that we remain at the forefront of the next generation of propulsion technologies, enabling us to continue to explore our solar system and beyond.”

The SPL will be formally opened on Thursday 10th November 2011.

Notes for Editors:

A milli-Newton is a metric unit of force equal to 0.001 Newton whereas a force of one Newton is a measurement of force which will accelerate a mass of one kilogram at the rate of one meter per second per second.

EADS ( EADS is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2010, the Group – comprising Airbus, Astrium, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of € 45.8 billion and employed a workforce of nearly 122,000, including more than 18,000 employees in the UK.

About Surrey Space Centre

The Surrey Space Centre (SSC), a Research Centre of the Faculty of Electronics and Physical Sciences (FEPS) at the University of Surrey, is a world leading Centre of Excellence in Space Engineering, whose aim is to underpin the technical development of the space industry through its advanced research programmes. SSC, comprising over 90 researchers and, faculty develops new innovative technologies which are exploited by the space industry.

Surrey's pioneering small satellite activities started in 1979 as an academic activity at the University, leading in 1985 to the formation of a highly successful spin-out company – Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL).

SSC provides well-focused space engineering education, postgraduate and industrial short courses, training the next generation space scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and business leaders. It has a large body of PhD, academic and industrial research, with a direct route through SSTL for rapid commercialization. SSC's Academic Research Laboratories cover advanced multidisciplinary small satellite and space system engineering techniques for Earth orbit and interplanetary space; innovative communications, remote sensing, robotics and space science payloads for small satellites; and enabling technologies for low cost space exploitation and planetary exploration, working in close collaboration with SSTL.

About the University of Surrey

The University of Surrey is one of the UK’s leading professional, scientific and technological universities with a world class research profile and a reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Ground-breaking research at the University is bringing direct benefit to all spheres of life – helping industry to maintain its competitive edge and creating improvements in the areas of health, medicine, space science, the environment, communications, defence and social policy. Programmes in science and technology have gained widespread recognition and it also boasts flourishing programmes in dance and music, social sciences, management and languages and law. In addition to the campus on 150 hectares just outside Guildford, Surrey, the University also owns and runs the Surrey Research Park, which provides facilities for 140 companies employing 2,700 staff.

The Sunday Times names Surrey as ‘The University for Jobs' which underlines the university’s growing reputation for providing high quality, relevant degrees.
Surrey is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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