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SaRC – Making great strides in communications at Satellite Research Centre

Satellite Research Centre (SaRC)​ aims to be a centre of excellence in satellite technology. Its first milestone satellite development, X-SAT, in collaboration with DSO National Laboratories has been a great success. The X-SAT is the First Singapore built satellite mission designed and wholly developed within NTU. It is a 106.68kg remote sensing micro-satellite using an electro-optical instrument with near real-time data downlink capability.

X-SAT has been successfully launched on board India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C16 at 10.12am Indian Standard Time (12.42pm, Singapore time) on 20 April 2011 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, India. High resolution earth images of 12m resolution have been transmitted back to the ground station since 5 May 2011. On 20 April 2014, the X-SAT team celebrated its third anniversary in space. The X-SAT team received the Defence Technology Prize on 28 October 2011. The developed satellite technology has been licensed to ST Electronics Pte Ltd to market the manufacturing and services for small satellite business.

Since 2009, the centre has also initiated several research and education programs. The upstream academic research projects involve mainly in advanced payload development for microsatellite such as radio occultation, nano-satellite (<50kg) technology and distributed space mission for remote sensing and communication applications.

The centre has an undergraduate satellite program since 2009. It involves second year to final year undergraduate students with the support of postgraduate students from different schools of college of engineering. The satellite team has completed two 1.3kg pico-satellite named VELOX-P and VELOX-PII in July 2012. After waited for the launch opportunity, the VELOX-PII finally lifted off on board Russia’s RS-20B rocket (Dnepr) at 3:10pm, Singapore time (7:10am Co-ordinated Universal Time, UTC) on Thursday, 21 November 2013. Since then, the satellite has been performing well and meeting all the expectation. Launched from the Yasny Launch Base located in the Orenburg Region, Russia, the VELOX-PII is also Singapore second locally-built satellite orbiting in space. 

In September 2013, the flight model of a 4.281kg nano-satellite named VELOX-I has been completed. VELOX-I has been successfully launched by the India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV C-23 at 9.52 am (12.21 pm Singapore time), on Monday, 30 June 2014. VELOX-I carries a 193g smaller pico-satellite named VELOX-PIII for conducting short range inter-satellite communication based on zigbee standard. Since injecting into the orbit, the solar panel, antenna and optics of the satellite have been deployed successfully. In house built reaction wheels and control algorithm have been operating well and the satellite has been controlled for various pointing modes. Several in-orbit missions have been conducted including imaging, GPS navigation, zigbee communication etc. For the VELOX program, it has various in-house innovations such as fine sun sensor, fault tolerant power supply system, maximum power tracker, advanced attitude control algorithm using model predictive control approach, navigation system, radiation harden imager etc.  

The present on-going program includes a mico-satellite named VELOX-CI (about 130kg) for climate study using radio occultation technique, a nano-satellite named VELOX-II (about 12kg) for inter-satellite communication study and a nano-satellite named AOBA-VELOX-III for experimenting pulse plasma thruster. The flight models of these satellites are expected to be completed in later part of 2015.

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