Press Release

Los Alamos and Surrey Satellite Contract for Cibola Flight Experiment Platform

By SpaceRef Editor
March 11, 2004
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Los Alamos National Laboratory
and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) announced today a
contract agreement for development of an advanced satellite platform
for ionospheric and lightning studies.

The British firm, SSTL, will create the satellite platform that will
be used to carry the Cibola Flight Experiment payload developed by
Los Alamos. The contract with SSTL is valued at $11.8 million.

Los Alamos, operated by the University of California for the U.S.
National Nuclear Security Administration, is building the Cibola
Flight Experiment (CFE), a reconfigurable processor payload intended
for a low-Earth orbit system. It will survey portions of the VHF and
UHF radio spectra. The experiment uses networks of reprogrammable,
field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) to process the received
signals for ionospheric and lightning studies. The objective is to
detect and measure impulsive events that occur in a complex

The experiment also will validate the on-orbit use of commercial,
reconfigurable FPGA technology demonstrating several different
schemes for the mitigation and correction of “single-event upsets”
that would crash most current computer systems.

The U.S. Department of Defense Space Test Program (STP) is including
the Cibola Flight Experiment satellite as part of the STP-1 space
flight mission. The STP-1 mission goal is to provide space-flight
opportunity for a maximum number of DoD Space Experiments Review
Board payloads on a single launch. The DoD Space Test Program is
responsible for the integration of seven satellites into a single
payload stack and launch of the STP-1 mission. The STP-1 mission is
scheduled for launch in 2006 on a medium-class Lockheed-Martin
Atlas-V, a U.S. Air Force Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV),
using the EELV’s Secondary Payload Adapter that allows small
satellites to be launched as “piggyback” passengers with larger

Timothy Murphy, head of research and development during the selection
process in the International, Space and Technology Division at Los
Alamos, said “It will be essential that our payload’s partners can
meet our schedule with a flight-proven satellite platform that we are
confident will be flight-ready in time for the EELV launch.”

Commenting on the contract award, SSTL’s Chief Executive Officer, Sir
Martin Sweeting said, “The award of this contract is great news for
SSTL. SSTL has already supplied satellite platforms to the U.S.
government, most notably PicoSat for the U.S. Air Force. Three of
SSTL’s flight-proven satellite platforms are in NASA’s Rapid II
catalogue and the award of this contract maintains SSTL as the
leading non- U.S. supplier of microsatellites in the very important
U.S. marketplace. We shall work hard to ensure the project is a
resounding success.”

SSTL’s satellite platform is based upon its proven microsatellite bus
that has now flown 23 times. In September 2003, three satellites of
SSTL’s disaster monitoring constellation (DMC) were launched and
commissioning of all three satellites is proceeding to plan. The
Cibola platform draws heavily on the engineering performed on the DMC
satellites and also on the TopSat mission due for launch late in
2004. DMC and TopSat were two of the three missions funded by the
British National Space Centre’s initiative for small satellites known

Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated by the University of
California for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of
the U.S. Department of Energy.

Los Alamos enhances global security by ensuring the safety and
reliability of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, developing
technical solutions to reduce the threat of weapons of mass
destruction and solving problems related to energy, environment,
infrastructure, health and national security concerns.

Surrey Satellite Technology Limited specialises in the design,
manufacture and operation of high-performance yet low-cost small
satellites provided on rapid timescales to meet both civil and
military Earth observation, communications and space science
applications. During 22 years SSTL has launched 23 small satellite
missions into low Earth orbit for international customers, pioneering
use of ‘commercial-off-the-shelf’ (COTS) technologies. The resulting
experience, heritage of missions and in-orbit operations are
unmatched by any other professional satellite manufacturer.

The Department of Defense Space Test Program provides spaceflight for
research & development (R&D) payloads approved by the DoD Space
Experiments Review Board (SERB), as well as prototype operational
systems. STP builds, tests, integrates, launches, and operates
on-of-a kind spacecraft and DoD satellite payloads. They are the
sole provider of integration, launch, and operations for DoD payloads
flying on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station.

SpaceRef staff editor.