[amsat-bb] 'Carbonite' space imager revealed

Eric Rosenberg ericrosenberg.dc at gmail.com
Mon Sep 21 21:46:57 UTC 2015

 From the BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-34315725

Eric W3DQ

Science & Environment
'Carbonite' space imager revealed
By Jonathan Amos BBC Science Correspondent

UK small satellite manufacturer SSTL has released details of the spacecraft
it launched in July, but about which it gave few details at the time.

Codenamed Carbonite, the 80kg platform filled some unused mass on the
rocket that put up the company's new high-resolution imaging constellation.

It turns out the additional passenger was a demonstrator for a new type of
quick-build, ultra-low-cost satellite.

Carbonite uses an off-the-shelf camera and telescope to take videos of

It acquires still pictures as well. Both modes show features on the ground
down to a size of 1.5m.

However, if flown in a 500km-high orbit, this would be a 1m

Carbonite's mission was revealed at last week's World Satellite Business
Week conference in Paris, organised by Euroconsult.

The intention is to compete the platform in the emerging Earth-observation
market for daily, fast-turn-around imagery.

This is a market being targeted currently by a number of Silicon Valley
operations, including Skybox-Google and Planet Labs, and requires the use
of multiple satellites in orbit.

Carbonite-1 was built and tested in six months.

Its camera and telescope, which has a 25cm mirror, were both bought online
and then adapted so they would cope with the harsh environment of space.

It also incorporates a drag sail, which will be deployed at the end of its
mission to pull it out of orbit.
Fill-in role

SSTL says more Carbonite missions are already in development.

The goal is to reduce the mass to 50kg, and to get the build time down to
under three months.

The cost will have to be lowered, too. The aim there is to turn Carbonites
out for well less than a million pounds.

"That will depend on what level of sophistication the customer wants," said
Luis Gomes, the head of Earth observation at SSTL.

"What Carbonite is about is filling in the blanks, and doing it in a timely
way," he told BBC News. (If there is cloud in the way, the ground cannot be
seen by an optical satellite).

"There is a lot of hype out there about some of these new systems - that
they can do everything.

"No, they can't, but for certain applications, they will nevertheless
perform a role in supporting more capable constellations."

SSTL has not released publicly the imagery acquired by the demonstrator in
the last few weeks.

The Guildford company says it has been busy getting its own new DMC3
imaging constellation ready for operation and wants more time to work with
the Carbonite product before showing it off more widely.

For those wondering where they may have heard the word "carbonite" before -
one use was for a fictional substance in the Star Wars film The Empire
Strikes Back.

The material was used by the Empire to freeze the body of smuggler and
rebel leader Han Solo.

Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET at bbc.co.uk  <https://twitter.com/#%21/BBCAmos>

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