Category Archives: Space Systems

The FrankenFalcon rocket + Navy railguns as lunar mass drivers

John Hare considers the capability of a monster (in more ways than one) rocket that combines a stretched SpaceX Falcon 9 with  Shuttle solid rocket boosters to put about 140 tons into orbit: SFalconLS – Selenian Boondocks.

Chuck Lesher notes that  Navy railgun development has reached a level of capability already sufficient to hurl small amounts of material from the Moon at escape velocities: Is the US Navy Preparing to Conquer Space? – Moonandback

Even at this early stage, the railgun is already capable of launching a 23 pound payload off the surface of the moon. We have our mass driver but getting it operational on the moon along with all the support needed to supply it with payloads… well, solving that problem must wait for another blog entry.

FISO: Reducing costs of space exploration with advanced in-space propulsion

The latest presentation to the Future In-Space Operations (FISO) study group is now posted in the FISO Working Group Presentations Archive. Both slides (pdf) and audio (mp3) are available for the talk, Reducing the Cost of Exploration using Near-Term Advanced In-Space Propulsion – Roger Myers, Aerojet – March 13, 2013.

A key part of the proposal is to use slow but highly efficient solar electric propulsion (SEP) systems for cargo and faster but a lot less efficient high thrust chemical (e.g. LOX/LH2) propulsion for crews.


FISO: Combined SEP-Chemical for manned Mars missions

The latest presentation to the Future In-Space Operations (FISO) study group is now posted in the FISO Working Group Presentations Archive. Both slides (pdf) and audio (mp3) are available for the talk, Combined SEP-Chemical for Piloted Mars Missions, Steve Oleson , NASA GRC – March 6, 2013.

Unfortunately, all the plans he discusses rely on the SLS vehicle, which will cost billions to fly and so there will be no funding left for projects like this.


STRaND-1 Cubesat operational and now tracked by amateur radio operators

The University of Surrey’s STRaND-1 Cubesat (built with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd) is controlled by a SmartPhone is now being tracked by student and amateur satellite radio operators after its successful launch on Feb.25th:

Smartphone satellite “STRaND-1” operational in orbit
STRaND-1, the nanosatellite carrying a smartphone, has been declared operational in orbit by the mission team from the University of Surrey’s Surrey Space Centre (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL).
The satellite successfully separated from the Indian PSLV launcher in low Earth orbit after its launch on 25th February, and first contact with STRaND-1 was made on its second pass over the Guildford ground station.  STRaND-1 is being commissioned and operated from the Surrey Space Centre’s ground station at the University of Surrey.  Initial checks have confirmed that critical systems are all functioning as expected.
Professor Craig Underwood, Deputy Director of the Surrey Space Centre said: “STRaND-1 has been an excellent project linking academia with industry and taking space engineering research through to a real mission.  It’s another major space success for the UK, delivered by Surrey in an amazingly short time and we are looking forward to receiving the first data from the on-board smartphone soon.”
 “The STRaND-1 team have worked incredibly hard over the past week to achieve this result”, said Doug Liddle, SSTL’s Head of Science.  “The first week of commissioning a satellite is always complex but we have had fantastic support from the AMSAT community around the world, and are now commanding STRaND-1 in orbit.  Setting up the ground station and establishing communications with the spacecraft has been a valuable part of the learning curve – the team feel and look like they’ve run several marathons in the last 10 days!”
The STRaND-1 mission team will continue commissioning of the satellite’s systems in orbit during the next few weeks and, after this phase has been successfully completed, phase two of the mission will see the testing of the smartphone’s experimental Apps and subsequently a number of in-orbit operations being switched over to the smartphone.
STRaND-1 is an innovative 3U CubeSat weighing 3.5kg and is the world’s first “phonesat” to go into orbit, as well as the first UK CubeSat to be launched.  It was developed by a team from the University of Surrey’s Surrey Space Centre (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) and is a research, training, and demonstration mission designed to test commercial off-the-shelf technologies in space.  It follows on from the UK’s first nanosatellite mission, SNAP-1, also built by SSC and SSTL, 13 years ago.
Amateur radio operators can track STRaND-1 from across the world.  Details of the frequency are available at
You can follow STRaND at and for more information visit
About Surrey Space Centre, University of Surrey
The Surrey Space Centre (SSC), a Research Centre of the Faculty of Electronics and Physical Sciences (FEPS) at the University of Surrey, is a world leading Centre of Excellence in Space Engineering, whose aim is to underpin the technical development of the space industry through its advanced research programmes. SSC, comprising over 90 researchers and faculty specialising in small satellite techniques, develops new innovative technologies which are exploited by the space industry. It provides well-focused space engineering education, postgraduate and industrial short courses, training the next generation space scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and business leaders
Twitter: @SpaceAtSurrey
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 over 500 staff working on turnkey satellite platforms, space-proven satellite subsystems and optical instruments.
Since 1981 SSTL has built and launched 41 satellites – as well as providing training and development programmes, consultancy services, and mission studies for ESA, NASA , international governments and commercial customers, with its innovative approach that is changing the economics of space.
In 2008 the Company set up a US subsidiary, Surrey Satellite Technology US LLC  (SST-US) with facilities in Denver, Colorado to address the United States market and its customers for the provision of small satellite solutions, applications and services.
Headquartered in Guildford, UK, SSTL is owned by Astrium BV.