DISCOVERER – Making Commercial Satellite Operations in Very Low Earth Orbit a Reality

Peter C.E. Roberts, Nicholas H. Crisp, Vitor T.A. Oiko, Stephen Edmondson, Sarah J. Haigh, Claire Huyton, Sabrina Livadiotti, Rachel Lyons, Katherine Smith, Luciana Sinpetru, Alastair Straker, Stephen D Worrall, Jonathan Becedas, Rosa María Domínguez, David Gonzalez, Valentin Cañas, Virginia Hanessian, Anders Mølgaard, Jens Cosedis Nielsen, Morten BisgaardAdam Boxberger, Yung An Chan, Stefanos Fasoulas, Constantin Traub, Daniel Garcia-Almiñana, Silvia Rodriguez-Donaire, Miquel Sureda, Dhiren Kataria, Ron Outlaw, Badia Belkouchi, Alexis Conte, Jose Santiago Perez, Rachel Villain, Barbara Heißerer, Ameli Schwalber

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputConference publication


DISCOVERER is a €5.7M European Commission funded Horizon 2020 project developing technologies to enable commercially-viable sustained-operation of satellites in very low Earth orbits. Why operate closer to the Earth? For communications applications latency is significantly reduced and link budgets improved, and for remote sensing improved link budgets allow higher resolution or smaller instruments, all providing cost benefits. In addition, all applications benefit from increased launch mass to lower altitudes, whilst end-of-life removal is ensured due to the increased atmospheric drag. However, this drag must also be minimised and compensated for. One of the key technologies being developed by DISCOVERER are materials that encourage specular reflection of the residual atmosphere at these altitudes. Combined with appropriate geometric designs these can significantly reduce drag, provide usable lift for aerodynamic attitude and orbit control, and improve the collection efficiency of aerodynamic intakes for atmosphere breathing electric propulsion systems, all of which are being developed as part of DISCOVERER. The paper provides highlights from the developments to date, and the potential for a new class of aerodynamic commercial satellites operating at altitudes below the International Space Station.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication70th International Astronautical Congress
PublisherInternational Astronautical Federation, IAF
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2019
Event70th International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2019 - Washington, United States
Duration: 21 Oct 201925 Oct 2019


Conference70th International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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