• Question: what's the hardest part of getting a satellite into space

    Asked by user.exe is corrupted to Helen, Hollie, Matt, Phil, Stephen, Sylwia on 9 Mar 2018.
    • Photo: Stephen Williams

      Stephen Williams answered on 9 Mar 2018:


      Certainly the risky part is the launch and getting in to the correct orbit. Even today rockets can occasional go wrong and that general means all is lost. Our company has been fortunate and has never lost a satellite but its always a little bit of worry come the launch. The other problem is you can’t fix a satellite once its in space so all of the hardware has to perfect when it leaves us for launch. There is one thing we can do which is lucky for me and that is we can re-program new software onto the spacecraft if there is a problem or we want it to do something new.

      To make life a bit safer we engineer the satellites with what is know as “no single point failure”. This means that if just one thing fails the satellite can still function correctly. This is sometimes done by having two of something so one remains a backup.

    • Photo: Hollie Heard

      Hollie Heard answered on 10 Mar 2018:


      I agree with Stephen that the most nail-biting part of getting anything into space, a satellite or a manned mission, is the launch. All launch vehicles are engineer with high factors of safety because of what it could mean when something goes wrong, but it does unfortunately still happen for example with the space shuttle. Launch vehicles and satellites themselves are all really complex things that rely on loads of different systems working together. Before anything goes into space it will often be tested on the ground first in lots of different ways. One of the most dangerous things for a satellite is the vibrations it experiences when attached to the launch vehicle so it will be tested to make sure that it essentially doesn’t fall apart! Getting into space, whilst we do it more often now, is never easy. Things can and do go wrong which is why you always see people celebrating when things go well. A lot of satellites may have taken years and years to get from the original idea to actually being launched and can be projects that people work on for large amounts of their career. If you had worked for 10 years, you’d cheer when it got into orbit and everything was working as you’d planned I’m sure!

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