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Earth moves for Oxford Space Systems

Earth moves for Oxford Space Systems

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Harwell-based space tech start-up Oxford Space Systems (OSS) has secured a collaborative contract with a leading academic institute in Kazakhstan to measure earthquake activity from space.

The collaboration with Kazakhstan’s Institute of Space Technique and Technologies (ISTT) will see OSS design, build and install a version of its proprietary boom technology, known as AstroTube, into a small satellite, known as a cubesat. This boom will be used to deploy a magnetometer – a highly sensitive instrument to measure and map the Earth’s magnetic field.

The satellite, roughly the size of a loaf of bread, will orbit almost 170 miles above the earth and is expected to operate for up to a year in this exploratory mission.

Mike Lawton, Oxford Space Systems’ founder and CEO explained: “This exciting mission will explore the viability of a space-based earthquake monitoring and prediction system that Kazakhstan is keen to implement.

“As one of the most earthquake prone countries on earth, the ability to predict damaging earthquakes has obvious societal and commercial benefits”. Should this exploratory mission prove successful it is hoped that a small constellation of satellites will be ordered from the UK – together with the OSS boom technology – to provide a fully operational earthquake monitoring service.

Ray Fielding, head of International Partnership Space Programme (IPSP), a programme being run by the UK Space Agency, said: ‘’We’re pleased to be able to support Oxford Space Systems in developing a long-term, commercially-focused relationship with Kazakhstan that we hope will support the growth of OSS into a globally recognised supplier of UK space technology.”

The AstroTube boom will provide world-first and unique capabilities. The 1.5m long boom system is fully and partially deployable, meaning that for the first time a magnetometer can be deployed at various distances from the satellite. This will permit the Kazakh team to quantify the level of interference generated by a cubesat on such an instrument when in orbit for the first time.

In addition to supplying its boom system, OSS will also be responsible for the integration of the boom into the spacecraft and all subsequent spacecraft level testing. A number of the ISTT team will relocate to OSS’ offices at Harwell in order to assist with the integration and test.

The Harwell campus, known as the UK’s Space Cluster, boasts some of Europe’s newest and largest test facilities and will be used by the project to ensure that the tiny spacecraft is fit for launch in early 2017.

Photo caption: In orbit this summer – OSS to set world record with longest retractable cubesat boom.

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