Bodmin company on NASA mission

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Flann Microwave
Professor James Watts, chief executive of Flann Microwave, with an example of one of the components being developed for NASA’s Surface Water and Ocean Topology (SWOT) satellite

A Cornish company is working with NASA on a major spaceflight mission.

Bodmin-based microwave engineering company Flann Microwave is supplying vital components to the US space agency for a major mission making the first-ever global survey of Earth’s surface water.

The multinational Surface Water and Ocean Topology (SWOT) satellite, planned to launch in 2021, is being jointly developed and managed by NASA, the French Space Agency (CNES), and the Canadian Space Agency, with contributions from the United Kingdom Space Agency.

It is UK-based Flann’s first project for NASA and has seen engineers working closely with their counterparts at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in Pasadena, California, in developing custom-made waveguide equipment.

This will be linked to the satellite’s high-resolution radar as it tracks how Earth’s water bodies change over time, with the aim of improving ocean circulation models, weather and climate predictions, and aiding in freshwater management around the world.

Flann chief executive, professor James Watts, said: “This is an incredibly exciting and globally significant project which we are very proud to be a part of.

“NASA is synonymous with excellence; their standards are exacting and the resources and engineering expertise at their disposal is hugely impressive. There’s good reason for that because the demands of spaceflight and the need for spacecraft and their components to perform accurately and consistently in a high energy environment and across a wide range of temperatures is technically challenging.

“So it has been a great experience to work with JPL in taking their specifications and delivering a completely custom solution to meet their requirements. We look forward to the launch of the mission and the new insights it will bring into Earth’s climate and precious water resources.”