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Mathematical modelling improves risk analysis for satellites

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A mathematical model designed to analyse the risk involved in space missions has been developed by Sciemus, in collaboration with defence experts, QinetiQ. It took two years and 40 scientists to complete the model which became known as SpaceRAT, a tool which reduced satellite risk analysis time from months to minutes, and has since saved some satellite operators an estimated 30 per cent in insurance costs.

To date, the model has been used to underwrite over 130 satellites and assists operators with risk analysis data when seeking financial backing. Sciemus co-founder and chief technology officer, Neil Fleming, said: 'Satellite reliability varies widely, depending on the quality of parts used, the manufacture and testing processes and the operational processes. Understanding satellite risk is important for any party with an interest in satellite capability. Whether spacecraft operator, investor or buyer, you need to know whether your satellite system will fulfil its requirements. Our space model allows our insurance partner, Liberty Syndicates, to price according to the actual risk of failure, meaning significant cost savings for technically superior operators.'

SpaceRAT provides a detailed understanding of the probability of satellite failure and the impact of such failures, both during launch and throughout its life. This is achieved through the combination of highly sophisticated analytical models with three decades of comprehensive data from previously flown space missions and current information drawn from the SpaceRAT database or input directly by the user. The model uses the available information to assess the risk to any spacecraft. It highlights areas that may carry specific concerns given the history of that spacecraft, or its individual components.