University of Southampton

University of Southampton, University Road
Southampton SO17 1BJ, United Kingdom
+44 (0)23 8059 5000

The Space Environment Physics Group at the University of Southampton has expertise in a wide range of space-based and ground-based observations. Furthermore, they operate ground based auroral cameras in Svalbard in the high Arctic to study the fine-scale structure of the aurora and the heating of the upper atmosphere. The Astronautics Group have expertise in areas such as space debris, near-earth objects, and environmental sensors whereas the Space Systems Engineering Group researches the design of small formation-flying spacecraft and fractioned or mini-satellites. The development of autonomous spacecraft, multi-agent systems and biologically-inspired devices and solutions is covered by a research group investigating artificial intelligence, spacecraft autonomy and control.

Capability highlight

  1. Build (Satellites): Software & engineering and Electronics & robotics

Optimisation of the spacecraft structure: Optimising spacecraft design to maximise strength, capability and endurance whilst minimising overall mass and cost. In addition to performing research into the dynamics of satellite structures and components, the group supports the experimental dynamic testing, development and validation of satellite subsystems. We also focus on inflatable structures and hybrid structures, which add compressible structural stiffeners to the inflatable structure.

Space systems engineering: Focusing on small formation-flying craft and fractionated satellites with activities including feasibility studies, modelling, preliminary design and optimisation.

Artificial intelligence, spacecraft autonomy and control: Developing autonomous spacecraft with the ability to follow commands given in system English rather than computer code; Developing novel solutions for complex, multi-agent system operation and control strategies.

  1. Analyse: Earth observation

High-resolution auroral imager (Svalbard): Auroral structure and kinetics (ASK): 3 synchronised cameras imaging at high-resolution in specific wavelengths to allow studies of the aurora.

High-resolution auroral and airglow spectrograph (Svalbard): High-throughput imaging echelle spectrograph (HiTIES): High resolution spectrograph recording in several specific wavelength regions simultaneously.

Observing and modelling Earth’s upper atmosphere: Operating high-resolution spectrograph in the high Arctic to monitor auroral and airglow emissions, which allows detailed study of the upper atmosphere structure and temperature profile.

Observing particle precipitation in near Earth space: Operating auroral cameras in the high Arctic to measure the energy (speed) of charged particles entering the Earth’s atmosphere at high-resolution, which allows study of the plasma processes occurring in near-Earth space.

  1. Beyond Earth: Space logistics

Space debris, near earth objects, space weather and environmental sensors: Developing software (DAMAGE, SHIELD and FADE) to help predict and simulate the numbers of orbital collisions and resulting fragments, trajectories of debris clouds. The software can also be used to optimise spacecraft design for maximum protection against debris and meteoroids. Another set of software (NEOSim, NEOImpactor and NEOMiSS) has been developed, which allows extensive simulation of near earth objects impacts. This can be used to predict the effects of such disasters as well as assess the results of different mitigation strategies.

  1. Facilities

Other facilities: Wind tunnels, large thermal vacuum chamber, structural shaker and biomechanics lab.

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