UKSA announces £15M satellite communications fund

UKSA announces £15M satellite communications fund
Ryan is a senior editor at TechForge Media with over a decade of experience covering the latest technology and interviewing leading industry figures. He can often be sighted at tech conferences with a strong coffee in one hand and a laptop in the other. If it's geeky, he’s probably into it. Find him on Twitter: @Gadget_Ry

The UK Space Agency (UKSA) has unveiled a £15 million fund to support British firms revolutionising satellite communications.

Ideas that could be eligible for funding include satellite constellations, ground systems, or the provision of new services.

Science Minister Nusrat Ghani commented:

“I am proud to be representing the UK space sector as we discuss our ambitions ahead of the ESA Council of Ministers next month. There are a series of important programmes on the table and I want to harness opportunities in space to grow the UK economy, create jobs and inspire young people into STEM careers.

We’re also making new funding available now to strengthen the UK’s position as a world leader in the satellite communications market, and I look forward to seeing the results of the competition.”

The UKSA takes a leading role in the European Space Agency (ESA) Advanced Research in Telecommunications Services (ARTES) programme. According to the Impact Evaluation of UK Investment in the European Space Agency report, the UK joins the USA and Germany in the top three nations in terms of scientific output.

In 2019, the UK committed £374 million per year over five years to the ESA. The aforementioned report highlights that every £1 invested in ESA has generated an overall return of £11.80 for the UK economy.

Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said:

“Our ESA membership delivers huge advantages to the UK, by catalysing investment into the sector, backing innovative companies, and providing access to new missions and capabilities such as the James Webb Space Telescope.

As a founding member of ESA, UK space organisations benefit from access to world-class facilities in the UK and Europe, the expertise of ESA’s 3,000 staff, and close links to the wider international space community, including other space agencies like NASA.

This new report demonstrates how our participation in ESA translates into real results for the UK economy and continues to play an important role in meeting our national space ambitions.”

The UK set out its National Space Strategy in 2021 with four key pillars:

  1. Unlocking growth in the space sector
  2. Collaborating internationally
  3. Growing the UK as a science and technology superpower
  4. Developing resilient space capabilities and services

The UK space sector is worth over £16.4 billion per year and currently employs around 47,000 people. The new fund, combined with the wider National Space Strategy, will further support the industry’s growth.

Last week, the vehicle for the UK’s first rocket launch arrived in Cornwall for the ‘Start Me Up’ mission. Nine satellites will hitch a ride on the rocket.

Ian Annett, Deputy CEO at the UK Space Agency, commented:

“We are close to the first launch from UK soil and first launch of a satellite from Europe. This will be an iconic moment in the history of UK space endeavours, so it is fitting that the mission has been named after a song from the Rolling Stones, one of the UK’s most iconic bands.

Developing new launch capabilities will build on the strengths of our space sector and attract companies from around the world to benefit from these commercial opportunities. This will catalyse investment, bring new jobs to communities and organisations right across the UK, as well as inspiring the next generation of space scientists and engineers.”

The launch from Spaceport Cornwall will be a horizontal launch using a modified Boeing 747. Vertical launch spaceports in Scotland are expected to come online in 2023.

(Image Credit: Virgin Orbit)

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