It is now feasible to construct highly capable ‘nanosatellites’ (i.e. sub–10 kg satellites) to provide cost–effective and rapid–response orbiting test vehicles for advanced space missions and technologies. The UK's first nanosatellite, SNAP–1—designed and built by Surrey Space Centre (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) staff — is an example of such a test vehicle: in this case, built with the primary objective of demonstrating that a sophisticated, fully agile nanosatellite can be constructed rapidly, and at very low cost, using an extension of the modular–COTS–based design philosophy pioneered by SSC for its microsatellites.
SNAP–1 was successfully launched into orbit on 28 June 2000 from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome on board a Russian Cosmos rocket. It flew alongside a Russian Cospas–Sarsat satellite called Nadezhda, and an SSTL–built Chinese microsatellite, called Tsinghua–1.
The first year of operations has been highly successful, with SNAP–1 becoming the first nanosatellite to have demonstrated full attitude and orbit control, via its miniature momentum–wheel–based attitude control system and its butane–propellant–based propulsion system. This paper reviews the initial results of the SNAP–1 mission.