Vital signs: the Disaster Monitoring Constellation

A constellation of UK-developed satellites is helping to guide relief efforts in New Zealand. Ellie Zolfagharifard reports

Both the Earthmapper and the SAR payload will need improvements in the way they handle and store data in order to be feasible. Flash memory systems, similar to those used in smart phones and cameras, are in development to provide larger amounts of storage that can be switched off when not in use. If an increase in power generation can also be achieved, engineers could double the data downlink rate from DMC-2’s 80Mbps to 160Mbps using more powerful X-band transmitters. Switching to a 105Mbps downlink is also being considered as an option.

Whatever solution is chosen, the next few years will be crucial in the development of the DMC. With six nations on board, many more countries are waiting in the wings to see how far the UK can push the capabilities of its satellites. The SSTL project has proven that a collaborative approach can outdo the efforts of singular space agencies. If it can continue its success, satellites in space will become even more crucial to our survival.