Major funding successes for innovative UK Space Scientists

21 UK organisations have been awarded a share of over £7 million funding from the UK Space Agency to put UK at the forefront of advances in space innovation. 13 of these are either led or supported by UK space scientists.

The cash injection is going to high-risk, high-reward projects proposed by universities, research organisations and industry that tackle climate change or address communications challenges through the use of satellite systems.

Projects set for the cash boost and led by UK universities include the University of Edinburgh with “Data SlipStream”– an advanced data system to deliver timely information on Climate Change mitigation and adaptation using Earth Observation. The University will also be leading the “Global Lidar Altimetry Mission” that brings together expertise from Scotland’s growing space and photonics sectors to pioneer a new approach to space-borne lidar using a laser compatible with a small satellite and, for smaller platforms, deployable optics to collect sufficient light.

Others include “Treeview”, a project led by the Open University who will use the funding to create the UK’s first Precision Forestry tool which will support detailed measurement of tree-planting initiatives aimed at increasing carbon dioxide removal.

Meanwhile the University of Cambridge will explore how innovative unfolding high resolution infrared space telescopes can be used to monitor the energy efficiency of buildings, while the University of Northumbria will be leading a development of laser optical communications for cubesats, replacing existing low-speed radio frequency transceiver used in CubeSats with the high-speed, light weight and lower power free-space optical transceivers.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:

“We want the UK to be a world leader in space technology which is why we are supporting our most ambitious innovators who are developing first-of-a-kind technologies to help solve some of our greatest challenges.

From slashing carbon emissions to protecting the UK’s critical services from harmful cyber-attacks, today’s funding will unshackle our most entrepreneurial space scientists so that they can transfer their revolutionary ideas into world-class products and services, while helping to boost the UK economy”

The funding comes from the UK Space Agency’s National Space Innovation Programme (NSIP), a fund dedicated to supporting space innovations by bringing together UK academics, research organisations and industrialists. Grants from the £15 million funding pot range from between £170,000 and £1.4 million per project.

Prof Andrew Holland, Chair of the Space Academic Network (SPAN) commented “I am delighted that our space academic community have been so successful in demonstrating our ability to innovate. The UK space-enabled economy is a success story, growing by over 60% since 2010 and now supporting £300 billion of UK economic activity. Much of this has been built on past science investment and so it’s important that space scientists play a full and active part in any future growth.”

Projects in which UK academics provide key supporting roles include:

University of Leicester supporting Geoinsight/“GHGWatch”: a service which will detect, quantify and monitor point-source greenhouse gas emissions.  The University will also be supporting D-Orbit/“CitiScan”, a project to provide climate-related measurements of individual cities and industrial complexes to enable end-users, such as local authorities, to monitor their omissions and progress.

Universities of Strathclyde and Bristol will be supporting Craft Prospect/“Responsive Operations for Key Services”, a study to demonstrate technologies for future secure telecommunication systems using Quantum Key Distribution and by artificial intelligence.

The University of Strathclyde will also be supporting Satellite Applications Catapult/“Backhaul Radio Access with Integrated LEO”, developing a solution for delivering connectivity to poorly served areas through satellite mega-constellations.

Oxford University will be supporting Trillium/“AI for Climate Change”, an open repository of artificial intelligence tools for improving climate related decision-making within the UK.

University of Exeter will support Satellite Applications Catapult/“Satellites for Batteries” which will use satellite data with advanced analytics to increase the identification of battery metals for mining companies in the UK and internationally, whilst decreasing the overall cost and environmental degradation associated with exploration.

University College London will support UMAS International Ltd/“Real Time Tracking of Vessel Performance and Emissions”. This project will create powerful new tools for the estimation and tracking of shipping emissions on a global scale.

University of Birmingham will be supporting Thales Alenia Space/“Quantum Accelerometer Climate Explorer (Q-ACE)”, a mission that hopes to measure the density of the Earth’s thermosphere, mapping the small scale structure.

Notes for Editors:

About Space Academic Network

The Space Academic Network (SPAN) provides a single body and voice for space-related academic research in the UK in the fields of Earth Observation, Space Engineering and Space Science. SPAN acts proactively to coordinate an informed academic response to current imperatives such as government or parliamentary consultations on space funding and strategic priorities or more general issues such as skills and training.

SPAN is a membership forum and comprises over 150 scientists and engineers from across the UK.

It operates a Board and Working Group structure. The Board meets three times a year with representatives of the UK Space Agency, Research Councils and UKSpace (the UK industrial trade association) in attendance. The working groups meet approximately four times per year.

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