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Space technology centre profile
Space technology centre profile
Dundee is well known as the home of RRS discovery, Desperate Dan and best selling computer game, Grand Theft Auto. Some of Dundee's lesser known exports are generated by the space technology centre and have far reaching implications for the space industry.
The ability to communicate and the desire to explore combined with the development of technology to achieve these goals set the human race apart from other species. It is these very elements, communication and space exploration, that are at the heart of the projects undertaken at the space technology centre in Dundee.
One such project is SpaceWire. This state-of-the-art project has produced a leading data-handling network for use onboard spacecraft and has highlighted Dundee and therefore Scotland's contribution to the space industry and emergence at the cutting edge of spacecraft-technology.
Dr Parkes, Director of the Space Technology Centre, explains, “SpaceWire is a computer network which enables devices on spacecraft to gather, store and process information onboard the spacecraft before sending it back to earth.”
“The standards and protocols for SpaceWire were created at the space technology centre at the University of Dundee. We worked with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the space industry across Europe to develop the SpaceWire standard, which is now being used on many spacecraft.
“SpaceWire is simple to implement and use. As a result it is being deployed on many space missions by NASA, ESA, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Roscosmos.” He continues, “It will be used by NASA in the James Webb Space Telescope which is to be launched in 2013 as a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope and in the ESA/JAXA Bepi Colombo mission to explore mercury as well as many other missions.”
Dr Parkes adds, “As the home of SpaceWire, Dundee hosted the first International SpaceWire Conference. The three day event was held from 17 to 19 September 2007 and attracted 100 SpaceWire specialists from around the world.”
The space technology centre is also at the forefront of autonomous planetary lander technology. Dr Parkes explains, “We have developed a tool to produce realistic simulated planetary surfaces. The resulting images are used to support vision-based navigation techniques which enable landing craft to avoid small craters, boulders or other obstacles that are not visible in an orbital survey. The computer vision- based navigation also facilitates spacecraft landings near pre-designated locations. This technology is now an important element in the ESA Aurora programme for the exploration of Mars.”
When the space technology centre was set up in March 2005 it became home to all of Dundee University's space related activities including the Dundee Satellite Receiving Station (DSRS).
Dr Parkes says, “The DSRS has been operational for almost 30 years. Funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) it receives and disseminates information from several environmental monitoring satellites. As well as being of importance to UK environmental scientists working on climatic change, oceanography and other earth sciences, DSRS services have also been used by the United Nations and the UK Met office.”
“The work carried out at the Space Technology Centre led to the formation of Scotland's first spacecraft business focussed company STAR-Dundee Ltd,” highlights Dr Parkes.
“The aim of STAR-Dundee is to support the users of SpaceWire technology and to provide any support necessary to apply SpaceWire to specific applications. Approximately, 90 per cent of STAR-Dundee's products are exported. Current clients include ESA, NASA and JAXA.”