Manchester satellite program wins national engineering award

Although the challenges in developing low-orbit satellites are significant, the multidisciplinary team – which brings together physicists, chemists, materials scientists, and assorted experts in space flight and satellite design – has already made a number of key breakthroughs.

Aerodynamic materials are key to DISCOVERER with a large portion of the work has focussed materials that are resistant to erosion in VLEO. Material developments have focussed on Such materials, combined with appropriate satellite geometries, can significantly reduce drag whilst also generating usable aerodynamic lift to enable aerodynamic attitude control. Developments here have focussed on 2D, beyond graphene materials for which Manchester University has a patent pending.

The DISCOVERER team has already overcome many of the key technical obstacles to sustained operation of satellites in VLEO. Roberts claims that the development and commercialisation of technologies that enable satellites to operate in VLEO could be key to helping the UK deliver on its stated ambition to capture 10 per cent of the £400bn global space market by 2030.

The obvious next step, he said, is to build a demonstrator satellite that applies these technologies and goes beyond the capabilities of the existing SOAR satellite. “In orbit demonstration is key,” said Roberts, “If any of these technologies are going to become commercial propositions industry really needs to know that they are going to work.”

The DISCOVERER project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 737183. This publication reflects only the author’s views and the European Commission is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.

Advanced materials is one of The University of Manchester’s research beacons – examples of pioneering discoveries, interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-sector partnerships that are tackling some of the biggest challenges facing the planet. #ResearchBeacons

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