Constellation Project to generate space data enters final phase

Image courtesy AAC ClydeSpace

A three-year space project involving Strathclyde to develop an innovative satellite constellation service to help meet a growing global demand for space data has launched into the final phase.

Algorithms originally developed for the study of human brains and starling flocks and are being applied to the design, build, and flight of future space missions as part of the £18million xSPANCION (Xtended Satellite Production ANd ConstellatIon OperatioNs) Pioneer project.

Novel spacecraft

Led by Glasgow-based AAC Clyde Space, the project includes the manufacture of 10 novel spacecraft and the launch of four demonstration spacecraft.

Academics at Strathclyde are leading on the development of software tools and algorithms that will inform the design and operation of complex satellite networks and constellations of the spacecraft.

Experts at the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) are developing and advising on the manufacturing process and assembly line procedures.

Work already started includes satellite platform qualification, scaling production capacity with increased automation and the development of cloud-based software for delivery of data services to users.

Space data

The transformational initiative, which kicked off in 2020, is structured as a public private partnership between the European Space Agencythe UK Space Agency and AAC Clyde Space. It lays the groundwork to provide low cost space data and services quickly to organisations eager to harness the power of satellites to tackle problems on earth.

Partners also include Bright Ascension Ltd, D-Orbit UK, Alden Legal UK and the Satellite Applications Catapult.

Professor Malcolm Macdonald, Director of the Applied Space Technology Laboratory based at the University of Strathclyde, said:

The project builds on our many years of research and innovation in space technology and our long-standing relationship with AAC Clyde Space.

It shows the track record we have in making our research and learning useful, going from our first publication on this work all those years ago to flight has been a great experience for the team.

AAC Clyde Space CEO Luis Gomes, said: "The project is on track to catalyse a new generation of applications not previously possible, appealing to both new and existing customers.

“We are engaged in dialogues with selected customers for whom the project's Space Data as a Service offering holds the promise of improving life on Earth.”

The project will be completed in 2024 with the manufacture, launch and in-orbit operations activities. 

The project is co-funded by the UK Space Agency, through ESA's Pioneer Partnership Projects, AAC Clyde Space and its partners are co-funding the other half.

Satellite industry

AAC Clyde Space is one of several companies that has helped establish Glasgow as a centre of the European satellite-building industry, with more satellites produced in the city than any outside the USA.

Experts from the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, the Centre for Signal and Image Processing, and the Advanced Forming Research Centre, part of the NMIS Group, contributed to the project.