A nanosatellite designed by UK-based Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd is being completed in preparation for a June 2000 launch. SNAP-1 is a UK-developed sophisticated spacecraft weighing just 6kg with micro-miniature GPS navigation, on-board computing, propulsion and altitude control technologies.
SNAP-1’s primary payload is a machine vision system capable of inspecting other spacecraft in orbit. The craft will use its propulsion and navigation systems to rendezvous after launch with another Surrey-built satellite, Tsinghua-1, in order to demonstrate orbital formation flying. SNAP-1 is representative of recent advances in the miniaturization of electrical and mechanical technologies, which have made possible a new breed of tiny nanosatellites weighing less than 10 kg. This dramatically reduces the cost of access to space, making space exploration a real possibility for a broad spectrum of the business and scientific community.
The innovative work of the Surrey Space Centre and its company SSTL has given the UK a worldwide lead in such technology: NASA has only recently begun to consider the possibility of using micro/nano satellites for space exploration.
To date SSTL has already launched 14 microsatellite missions and one minisatellite, with a further 3 microsatellites ready for launch this year. The SNAP-1 nanosatellite will be launched on a COSMOS rocket from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia.