Press Release

SSTL and Goonhilly announce partnership and a call for lunar orbit payloads

By SpaceRef Editor
July 12, 2016
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Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd and Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd (GES) have today announced a new partnership to go beyond Earth’s orbit and provide a new model of low cost, high value, space exploration and science. With the ultimate aim of supporting a Solar System network, the SSTL-GES Lunar Pathfinder mission and its successors will provide a system to transport payloads to the Moon together with communications links for these payloads and any other deployed assets back to the Earth.

The mission will support the international development and exploration of space, and the first mission will also provide a new opportunity to transport commercial payloads to lunar orbit. A call for flight opportunities for small lunar missions and payloads is now open and is hosted on a dedicated website The call targets the global space community from established space agencies, developing space nations, commercial entities, public and private organisations and universities.

Sir Martin Sweeting, SSTL’s Executive Chairman, summed up the significance of the mission by commenting “Affordable transport of space assets to lunar orbit and communications of these assets with Earth are a common barrier to the international development and exploration of our local solar system – the Lunar Pathfinder missions will provide the low cost support infrastructure that allows customers to focus on the science and business aspects of their missions.”

The Lunar Pathfinder mission is designed to be inter-operable with other systems and will use international protocols for communications.

The SSTL-GES Lunar Pathfinder team are already working on the initial baseline design, with technical assistance from the European Space Agency (ESA). SSTL are designing a series of lunar communication satellites and will be building on their heritage of small satellite platforms in Low Earth orbit and Medium Earth orbit to go beyond Earth’s orbit for the first time. GES are upgrading one of the famous antennas at their Goonhilly site in Cornwall, UK, into a deep space ground asset, which will be the first element in a commercial deep space network. In addition, GES will provide a dedicated mission operations centre situated in Cornwall.

The SSTL-GES Lunar Communications Partnership has been selected by ESA for a pilot phase activity as part of their broader initiative to foster Commercial Partnerships for Space Exploration.

“Commercial partnerships play an important role in the exciting ESA vision for space exploration, said David Parker, ESA Director for Human and Robotic Exploration. “ESA stimulates private sector investment and engagement in space exploration through supporting selected commercial initiatives, as business partner and potential future customer. This approach is expected to result in innovative and inspiring approaches for delivering the ESA strategy for space exploration, benefiting both, the private sector partner and the broader ESA stakeholder community.”

About SSTL

Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) is the world’s leading small satellite company, delivering operational space missions for a range of applications including Earth observation, science and communications. The Company designs, manufactures and operates high performance satellites and ground systems for a fraction of the price normally associated with space missions, with 450 staff working on turnkey satellite platforms, space-proven satellite subsystems and optical instruments.

Since 1981, SSTL has built and launched 48 satellites for 20 international customers – as well as providing training and development programmes, consultancy services, and mission studies for ESA, NASA , international governments and commercial customers, with an innovative approach that is changing the economics of space.

Headquartered in Guildford, UK, SSTL is part of the Airbus Group.

About Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd

Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd (GES) is a privately owned UK company registered in England and Wales (Reg 6896077). The company acquired Goonhilly Earth Station from British Telecom in January 2014 under a 999 year lease following an investment from Downing Capital LLC. Prior to that, GES Ltd operated from Goonhilly under a short term lease.

Goonhilly has a world-wide reputation for excellence in engineering dating back to the beginning of the space age. In 1962 Goonhilly received the first trans-Atlantic TV pictures from TELSTAR. Since then it has been at the forefront in satellite communications technology development and service operation, being involved in many of the ‘firsts’ in the field. The Goonhilly site occupies over 160 acres (64 hectares) and is an active, operational telecommunications hub supporting satellite communication and space science services. Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd (GES) is a privately owned UK company which acquired the world famous Goonhilly satellite station in January 2014 wiith a business plan to regenerate the site.

As one of the new generation of space entrepreneurs, GES Ltd is providing a paradigm shift in high value space communication services, training and outreach. The company already provides monitoring and control services for the world’s largest satellite operators, hosting services for a range of space communication companies, fixed and mobile satellite communications links, data centre services. Unlike many other satellite teleports, Goonhilly’s capability goes well beyond those of a standard teleport with the capability of tracking everything from low-earth-orbit spacecraft, geostationary communication satellites through to deep space missions and radio astronomy research.

The innovative approach of GES Ltd has won its status as an Enterprise Zone and the host for the Sat Apps Catapult SW Regional Centre of Excellence.

Goonhilly has some of the best connectivity in the UK with multiple 10GBit/s and 100GBit/s fibre links available, hosting of the 1TBit/s SEAMEWE3 subsea cable and a wide range of antennas operating in all frequency bands.

GES Ltd has well established links with the UK’s leading research universities and is building its capability in professional training and support of research. We plan to re-open the very popular visitor centre in due course.

SpaceRef staff editor.