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UK’s Surrey Satellite to Lease Earth Observation Satellite to China’s 21AT

SSTL-S1 satellite under construction at SSTL’s Guildford, UK site. Photograph courtesy of SSTL/Kathryn Graham.

Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL), located in Guildford, Surrey, in the U.K., has signed a GBP25 million (approximately U.S.$34.8 million) deal with China’s Twenty First Century Aerospace Technology Co. Ltd. (21AT) for the lease of the SSTL-S1 Earth observation satellite.

SSTL-S1 is due to be launched on an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in mid-2018.

The leasing deal was signed in Beijing on 1 February, 2018, by Sir Martin Sweeting, Executive Chairman of SSTL, and Wu Shuang, President and Chairman of 21AT. The signing was witnessed by Dr. Liam Fox, MP, British Secretary of State for International Trade.

Under the agreement SSTL will lease SSTL-S1 to 21AT for the entirety of its operational lifetime (approximately seven years), providing high-resolution satellite imagery to the Chinese commercial Earth observation company.

21AT already operates the TripleSat constellation comprising of three SSTL DMC-3 satellites. SSTL-S1 is to be added to the 21AT fleet and will increase its revisit rate and imagery acquisition.

“I am delighted to be here today to sign another contract that extends SSTL’s 15-year long-term UK-China partnership with 21AT and consolidates the success of the TripleSat Constellation service. Adding capacity to the Constellation with a new satellite demonstrates the high fidelity of the imagery and the success of 21AT’s business model,” said Sir Martin Sweeting after signing the agreement in Beijing

SSTL-S1 is an identical design to the SSTL DMC-3 satellites already in operation with 21AT. SSTL-S1 is capable of capturing sub-one meter resolution imagery in panchromatic mode and sub-four meter resolution in multispectral mode. SSTL-S1 will have a 450 kilogram mass and will be able to capture multiple targets in one pass using spot, strip, and mosaic imaging methods.

The SSTL deal with 21AT is the latest in a number of agreements between Chinese commercial satellite imagery companies and Western firms such as Canada’s Urthecast, Argentina’s Satellogic, as well as U.K.’s SSTL. The aim of these deals is to develop a thriving Chinese geospatial industry and to capture a large share of the global market in satellite imagery currently dominated by Western companies such as DigitalGlobe and Airbus.


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