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£6 million for UK space technology industry

3 Apr 2012

As part of the National Space Technology Programme, the Government is to grant nearly £6 million to co-fund major new British research that will develop commercial products and services using space technology and data from space-based systems.

 David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science with Phil Davies, Head of Business Development Activities, SSTL.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science (right) at the BIS Space Technology Display in London with SSTL's Phil Davies
Credit: UK Space Agency

The grant funding, from the UK Space Agency and the Technology Strategy Board, will support four major research and development consortium projects to be led by Astrium Ltd, Avanti Communications Ltd, DMC International Imaging Ltd and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. The total value of the R&D, including contributions from the participating companies, is over £11.5 million. The portfolio of projects includes participation by 21 partner companies, universities and research organisations, including seven SMEs.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said:"The UK space industry supports thousands of high-tech jobs in the UK and is an important driver of economic growth. This £6 million investment will build on that success by helping some of the most innovative British businesses develop highly commercial, cutting-edge space technology that will be in demand in a growing global market."

The investment forms the core part of the UK Space Agency’s National Space Technology Programme (NSTP), which sees government investment of £10 million to help UK industry exploit growth opportunities in the space sector and improve the UK’s space technology capabilities.  Last month the UK Space Agency and the Technology Strategy Board announced investment of £2.5 million in twenty-eight short-term, fast-track research and development projects.

Dr David Williams, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said:
“These initial major projects springing out of the National Space Technology Programme are great examples innovative and ambitious R&D in the UK space sector. By investing in these projects we are securing our future national capability across the range of vital applications and services that space technology can provide.”

The four projects will:

  • begin the development of the NextGen Telecommunications satellite platform.  The work is focused on developing the mechanical platform architecture for future European telecommunications satellites in the 3 to 6 tonne range.  This project will also prepare  UK companies to take leading roles in future European Space Agency programmes to develop telecommunication space technologies;
  • develop a ruggedised and light-weight portable Ka-Band satcom terminal.  This “suitcase” terminal will provide portable and mobile access to the latest generation of high bandwidth satellite broadband services;
  • develop a system and service for measuring land carbon stocks and fluxes from Satellite Earth observation data.  This service will provide much higher resolution services than are currently available and enable the monitoring and trading of carbon credits and similar commercial tools for tackling climate change;
  • prepare the way for the planned UK NovaSAR Synthetic aperture radar mission by accelerating the technology development of an innovative S-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar instrument.

Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, said:
 “We are delighted to support these exciting new projects, which will enable the development,  commercialisation and exploitation of space technologies to address challenges and provide growth opportunities across a wide range of emerging markets.”