News story

Burgeoning space sector showcased at UK Space Conference

New contracts support UK’s ambition of £40 billion space sector by 2030.

Gala dinner
Credit: UK Space Agency (Max Alexander).

UK Space Conference 2015: Highlights

From a feasibility study into the next generation of mobile satellite services, to a study examining the potential for UK communications support for the Orion mission, a host of new contracts were announced last week as leading figures from the space industry met for the 2015 UK Space Conference in Liverpool.

The conference announcements illustrated the strength and diversity of the UK space sector and the skilled services it has to offer.

ICE telecommunications contract

On day 2 of the Space Conference, the European Space Agency (ESA) signed a contract with Inmarsat in the UK to support the Inmarsat Communications Evolution project, ICE – a public-private partnership that gives European industry the opportunity to shape future mobile satellite services on land, at sea and in the air.

The ICE programme aims to make mobile satellite services more accessible, by inviting customers to bring their own applications, hardware and network solutions into the Inmarsat ecosystem.

Innovations will include solutions to extend network coverage to Polar Regions, which are becoming particularly important in the domains of aeronautical and maritime safety, while further enhancements in optical communication technologies will provide high-speed links for interconnecting orbital, ground and aeronautical assets.

Cornish space facility a step closer to supporting Moon mission

The European Space Agency (ESA) has commissioned a study to examine whether Cornwall’s Goonhilly Earth Station could provide communications support to the Orion Exploration Mission 1 in 2018.

Under the contract, a consortium comprising QinetiQ, Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd and BAE Systems will assess the feasibility of upgrading the 32-metre No.6 Antenna to support the unmanned flight of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) around the Moon.

QinetiQ will provide prime management and technical consultancy, with BAE Systems leading on backend processing of Orion’s telecommands and telemetry. The nine-month feasibility study will culminate in delivery of an upgrade implementation assessment and programme plan to the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC). Based on these recommendations, ESA will decide whether to take the development plans to the next stage.

ViaSat facility in the UK

American satellite data company ViaSat used the Space Conference to announce a European headquarters in Farnborough. The new centre will build on the heritage of research and development in satellite applications that is at the core of ViaSat’s capabilities and will see the transfer of some of ViaSat’s technology-leading, innovative research and development to the UK together with associated production contracts.

Wales Space Strategy

The UK Space Conference provided the perfect venue for the launch of the Wales Space Strategy.

Written in conjunction with the Satellite Applications Catapult, the strategy has been developed in consultation with stakeholders from across the UK and lays out the country’s plans to support the UK space industry’s growth by exploiting key upstream resources and developing downstream SME champions, generating 5% of the UK space industry’s turnover – a £2bn opportunity per annum by 2030.

Aberystwyth Centre for Space and Earth Monitoring (ACSEM)

Aberystwyth University is launching a new interdisciplinary research centre named the Aberystwyth Centre for Space and Earth Monitoring (ACSEM).

ACSEM will meet the downstream space sector innovation challenges through world class research, combining expertise in space robotics, autonomous systems, remote sensing and big data. I will also develop strong partnerships with industry, promoting knowledge exchange and increasing the competitiveness of the UK’s downstream space industry by using industry guidance to support the development of products and services with a particular focus on monitoring and situational awareness.

IGS refresh

The Space Innovation and Growth Strategy (IGS) update report, published during the conference, reveals that the UK space industry continues to make progress towards its target of a10 per cent share of the global space market by 2030.

The report highlights the industry’s 8.6% year on year growth since 2010, noting the industry is now valued at £11.8 billion. The industry led IGS has already achieved considerable successes by bringing together industry, government and academia to work together against a clear agenda. The update report reviews these successes, provides feedback through case studies, and outlines plans for the next phase of the programme.

The Case for Space

The Case for Space 2015 report reveals that the UK space industry’s annual value grew to £11.8 billion in 2012-13, having grown at an average compound rate of 8.6% year-on-year since 2008-09, with a productivity some 3 times the UK average.

Launched during the UK Space Conference, the report indicates that the sector has trebled in size since 2000 and now directly employs 37,000 people, supporting an estimated 115,000 jobs in total.

Inauguration of first ESA facility in UK

The week before the UK Space Conference (9 July 2015), the European Space Agency (ESA) opened its new ECSAT building in Oxfordshire.

ESA’s UK facility, ECSAT, has been developing steadily since 2008, following the UK government’s decision to increase its contribution to ESA.

Named after ESA’s British first Director General, Roy Gibson, ECSAT’s new building will host 120+ jobs including teams in telecommunications and integrated applications. Special emphasis will be put on the development of new markets for satellite-based services and applications. In addition, new satellite, ground infrastructure and product developments are being initiated through original schemes of public–private partnerships with world-class operators.

Published 22 July 2015