The University of Manchester (UoM) is working on a multi-million-pound project that aims at launching a satellite as part of SpaceX’s upcoming mission this year. The €5.7 million project, dubbed ‘DISCOVERER’, will be led by UoM and will focus on revolutionizing Earth observation satellites.
By designing advanced technologies, UoM aims at making satellites smaller, lighter, and more economical, consequently allowing them to operate in low Earth orbits, under the altitude of 450km, with the motive being to avoid space debris and enhancing the quality of images captured by the satellite.
UoM’s Satellite for Orbital Aerodynamics Research (SOAR) is a 3U CubeSat and will be introduced on the CR-22 mission of SpaceX on June 3, 2021, from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the International Space Station from where it will be positioned into the orbit.
While inside the orbit, the satellite will be monitored and controlled from the ground facility based on UoM’s campus where experiments will be carried out and studied.
In line with the above, data gained from the satellite will be given back to scientists who will analyze interactions between the residual atmosphere in the low orbit and new materials that were developed at the University to reduce drag and increase aerodynamic performance.
According to the scientific coordinator for the DISCOVERER project- Dr. Peter Roberts, the satellite has been developed to explore the aerodynamic effects in extremely low Earth orbits along with measuring the atmospheric parameters like density and composition.
The new satellite technology comes with a set of fins that will be covered with four types of materials that will help in testing and rotating the satellite in different angles.
Additionally, the fins can be folded and placed against the body of the spacecraft for launch and will be used after the satellite is in the orbit, allowing analyzes of different test materials that will be interacting with the residual atmosphere.