MOD invests £1m in ‘wrapped-rib’ satellite technology

UK space technology firm Oxford Space Systems (OSS) has received £1m investment from the MOD (Ministry Of Defence) to help develop a new generation of deployable satellite antennas.

OSS “wrapped rib” antenna. Image: OSS

The cash injection will see OSS develop its so-called “wrapped-rib” antenna technology for use in a variety of civil and defence applications.

Developed in response to the high cost of putting payloads into space, the technology is based on a specialist carbon-fibre composite that can be launched in a compact, lightweight structure, but which unfolds to form a structure several metres across once in space.

The investment, which will be used to scale up the technology, represents the largest contract placed with a first-time supplier by the MOD’s Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA). The ministry claims that it will make the UK the first European country with the capability of a flight-proven parabolic deployable antenna.

The antenna will be used to carry out fine-resolution Low Earth Orbit Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery, a technique which enables all weather Earth observation, irrespective of time of day or night and which provides unique advantages for both civil and defence applications.

According to MOD the technology will enable the UK to deploy a number of wrapped-rib antennas in space, providing more accurate and frequent satellite images.

OSS senior commercial strategist, Shefali Sharma said: “We view our antenna technology as a key enabler for the next-generation of communications and SAR services from orbit. The antenna is highly scalable and tunable and has been specifically designed for volume production, targeting smallsat constellations. As such, it’s suitable for a range of commercial opportunities not only here in the UK, but globally too. Our doors are open to international trade and we are excited about where future partnerships will take us.”