Particular areas of interest for the group include:
- Design of formation-flying spacecraft for remote sensing applications
- Modelling and simulation of relative trajectories of small, formation-flying craft
- Fractionated satellites
- High-altitude power generation platforms
- Nano and cube satellites
The space industry is showing an increasing predilection for miniaturised spacecraft and for creating systems of small co-operating spacecraft rather than one big monolithic machine. Within the group, research is currently focusing on small formation-flying craft and fractionated satellites (i.e. where a group of mini-satellites each individually take on the role of a subsystem to create between them the effect of a larger monolithic satellite). Activities include feasibility studies, modelling, preliminary design and optimisation. This new style of satellite operations has only been possible due to advances in their control systems; when you have a group of objects flying so close to each other any movement they make has to be precisely controlled otherwise they could all crash and take each other out. Accordingly one key focus area for the group has been in the hardware manufacture and testing of these control systems.
Staff and students from the group are also working with Surrey Satellite Technology Limited to coordinate the systems engineering for ESA's European Student Moon Orbiter (ESMO) project - 19 student teams from across Europe creating a spacecraft to orbit the moon, due to launch in 2014.
Simulation showing formation flying spacecraft