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Postcards from Space: December launches and a decade of experiments in space

Jim Graham, MD, QinetiQ’s space business

December marked the end of a successful year for QinetiQ’s space business with two different rockets launched into space – both with new, state-of-the-art QinetiQ hardware on board.

Postcards from space

On December 5th, the Transparent Alloys Cartridges (TAC) flew to space inside the SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, on top of a Falcon 9 rocket. The TAC will be used in the Transparent Alloys instrument itself (also made by QinetiQ) already on board the International Space Station. The instrument, which received high praise from both the European Space Agency (ESA) and the scientific teams working with it, aims at hosting experiments in the field of material science.

This was followed on December 18th with the spacecraft CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite) being launched from Europe’s Spaceport in the French Guyana with the objective of getting more information on some of the exoplanets that we know. QinetiQ provided a two-stage baffle with seven accurately aligned vanes to optimize the optical path, and a lightweight cover to protect the telescope.

Following on from the opening of the new €3m cleanroom facilities in Belgium, and the QinetiQ-engineered Solar Electric Propulsion System (SEPS) on board the BepiColombo spacecraft continuing to fulfil all objectives by successfully completing the second thrust arc (having stayed dormant for eight months), it has been quite a year for our space team stretching across Europe.

And as we start the new decade, we can look back with pride at our track record for producing highly technical and precise instruments for scientific research during the past ten years with currently nine instruments successfully developed and used in orbit – with five more in development that will fly to space in the coming years.

From ground-breaking initiatives in Solar Electronic Propulsion Systems and the successful development of the PROBA satellites to pioneering programmes in the design and delivery of advanced satellite technologies, QinetiQ has grown to become one of Europe’s leading space systems integrators. I am proud of the work we have completed not only this past year but also over many years and look forward to being part of the QinetiQ space team for the next steps of our journey.