UK-based Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) welcomes the recent signing of a joint statement of intent between NASA and the UK government’s British National Space Centre (BNSC) that will establish co-operation between the two countries in the field of lunar and planetary exploration.

SSTL, a world leader in small-satellite missions, performed a lunar exploration design study for the UK government in 2006. The study was supported by a group of UK scientists and showed the feasibility of a pair of low-cost missions known as MoonLITE and MoonRaker. These missions will be developed using SSTL’s small satellite expertise together with UK expertise in miniaturised instruments.

MoonLITE (Moon Lightweight Interior and Telecom Experiment) would be launched in 2010 and comprises a small orbiter and four un-braked penetrators carrying miniaturised instruments to impact the Moon at high speed. MoonLITE has two major mission goals. The first is to demonstrate how lunar orbiters can act as a data relay for systems on the Moon’s surface, providing navigation services to the surface and extend both the Internet and GPS to the moon. The second is a scientific objective, to position a network of seismology and heat flow experiments to investigate the seismic environment and deep structure of the Moon, continuing the pioneering work of the Apollo missions.

MoonRaker would be launched two years after MoonLITE and involves a single soft-lander targeted on a nearside landing site. The primary goal is to attempt in-situ dating of the young basalt rocks at the northern Oceanus Procellarum, allowing an absolute value of the Moon and to determine the age of the solar systems.

Alongside SSTL, the University of Surrey Space Centre (SSC) is already involved in several ESA studies and missions, such as ExoMars, and has contributed to future mission proposals for ESA’s Aurora and Cosmic Vision programmes. The Centre is also active in the area of space robotics and autonomy, concentrating on surface mobility systems, autonomous rover navigation and control, planetary unmanned aerial vehicles, bio-inspired drills and high-speed impactors and penetrators. In 2005, SSC hosted the UK Space and Planetary Robotics Network Symposium and is a member of the UK penetrator consortium.

Commenting on the co-operation agreement, SSTL’s Group Executive Chairman Professor Sir Martin Sweeting said “SSTL is supportive of the BNSC’s aims from this agreement with NASA and is ready to use its experience in rapid-response low-cost space missions for the benefit of the exploration activities which will follow-on as a result.”

Editor notes

1. The agreement between NASA and BNSC was signed at 19:00 local time in Washington DC on Thursday 19 April. See for the wording of the agreement and for the BNSC press release.

2. The MoonLITE and MoonRaker study was performed by SSTL with support from Dr Yang Gao at the University of Surrey, Dr Andrew Ball at the Open University, Professor Ian Crawford at UCL and Professor Lionel Wilson at the University of Lancaster.

3. SSTL is working closely with the Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) who lead the UK penetrator consortium. MSSL’s Director is Professor Alan Smith.

4. Pictures of the MoonLITE and MoonRaker spacecraft are available from SSTL contact:

5. SSTL has pioneered the use of small satellites and is already active in the US marketplace. SSTL is one of only two non-US companies with satellites in the NASA Rapid II standard catalogue of “off-the-shelf” satellites. Through this catalogue SSTL has performed feasibility study contracts such as the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission Study. Last month, an SSTL-built small satellite, CFESat, was launched from Cape Canaveral for a US customer, the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory. As far back as 1998, SSTL won a contract with the US Air Force for the PICOSat satellite. PICOSat was a technology demonstration mission launched from Kodiak Island in 2001. Although designed for a one-year mission, PICOSat’s operational lifetime exceeded three years.

Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) is a world leader in the design, manufacture and operation of high performance small satellites. Based in Guildford, UK, SSTL has led the way in the development of innovative technologies to achieve cost effective satellite missions that are delivered within rapid timescales. The experience and heritage of missions (27 satellites launched to date) and in-orbit operations acquired through short development periods and frequent launches, is unmatched by any other small satellite manufacturer. SSTL employs 230 people working on LEO, GEO and interplanetary missions, all of which exploit the cost effective technologies and techniques that are the company’s hallmarks.

This press release can be downloaded from the online press room. These can be previewed in the printable pdf version of this press release, that can be downloaded from the SSTL online press room :

SSTL Contact:

Audrey Nice, Surrey Satellite Technology Limited

Tel: +44 (0)1483 804200 Email:

Press Contact:

Stephen Ballard, Ballard Communications Management (BCM)

Tel: 01306 882288 Email: s.ballard (AT)