Water detection mission

An on-board computer built by British small satellite manufacturer Surrey Satellite Technology Limited will help the Indian lunar mission Chandrayaan-1 search for water.

An on-board computer (OBC) built by British small satellite manufacturer Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), will help the Indian lunar mission Chandrayaan-1 search for water by controlling the US Navy’s Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) payload.

The Mini-SAR payload will detect water ice in areas of permanent shadow around the lunar poles to a depth of a few metres. It can optimally distinguish water ice from the dry lunar surface.

The OBC was successfully delivered to BAE Systems as part of a US Navy contract in 2007.

The OBC695B is a radiation-hard computer specially designed for robust operation in a lunar orbit. It is based on the OBC used by the Galileo test satellite, GIOVE-A, which has been operating successfully in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) since its launch in December 2005.

‘This marks SSTL’s first system to be flown into lunar orbit and paves the way for more adventurous opportunities in the next few years, using lunar orbiters and subsystems in planetary space,’ said SSTL’s lunar expert Andy Phipps.