News story

First round of international space partnerships announced

New space projects see UK companies working with international partners, to develop satellite technology in emerging economies.

The UK Space Agency has this week (26 March 2015) announced 7 new space projects that will see UK companies working with international partners to develop satellite technology in emerging economies.

From telecommunications delivered by low-cost CubeSats to e-finance solutions and access to maternal health in remote locations, the 7 new projects, funded through the International Partnerships Space Programme (IPSP), will demonstrate how UK satellite or space technology can provide societal and economic benefits to countries that do not currently have such capabilities.

The 7 new projects are an excellent example of how the IPSP programme is generating new opportunities for UK industry to operate with both emerging and established space-faring nations and supporting UK companies to become trusted partners to provide high-tech exports. It is a 2 year, £32 million programme established and led by the UK Space Agency. This latest announcement is the result of the first call for projects, all funded to March 2016.

UK satellite data and cutting-edge space technology plays an ever increasing role on the international scene in both the economies of major and established space nations as well as in the development of emerging space nations.

In the UK we take for granted the services we receive as a result of space infrastructure such as seeking a weather forecast, planning our journey into work, managing our businesses online or accessing data at the touch of a button. However, for many in emerging economies, basic services such as communication infrastructure or local mapping are simply not available to them. Satellites in space often provide the only communication options in many countries in the world, particularly in places like sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, environmental monitoring from space can make a valuable contribution to resource management and response to environmental crises which can be particularly challenging owing to extreme environments and harsh conditions for agriculture and water management. Monitoring from space satellites can also support longer term climate mitigation and adaptation programmes.

Space also has the potential to inspire young people from even the most difficult backgrounds to dream of a job as a scientist or engineer. This programme will help build in-country capacity and capability to undertake research and innovation to solve societal challenges and grow economies.

Dr David Parker, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said:

These new international partnerships not only illustrate the breadth of UK expertise in space technology but prove that international collaboration can provide many new business opportunities for our highly skilled space companies whilst supporting vital areas of space activity such as Earth observation and telecommunications. By sharing our expertise in space technology we can also share the considerable economic and social benefits that it provides.

The 7 new projects

1. Project: iKnowledge

UK Lead Supplier: Avanti Communications Ltd International Partner: The Tanzania Universal Communications Service Access Fund (UCSAF), the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MoEVT) and Tanzania Industrial Research and Development Organisation (TIRDO)

Avanti Communications will deliver a major ICT infrastructure and e-learning programme to teachers across Tanzania.

The iKnowledge programme will equip up to 250 schools in rural and underserved areas of Tanzania with ICT infrastructure. This includes broadband internet via satellite, alongside provision of ICT training and educational content for teachers to apply straight to the classroom. Powered by resilient Ka-band satellite technology, delivery will be supported locally by technology NGO Camara Education Tanzania and service provider Infinity Africa Network Ltd. The iKnowledge project will improve quality levels of teaching in rural and remote areas in core curriculum subjects, alongside advancing teachers’ digital literacy through a sustainable training model. The system is also dual-use, and when not in use by schools, can be used by the local community, providing broadband connectivity for business and social uses.

2. Project: SBAS Africa

UK Lead Supplier: Avanti Communications Ltd International Partner: South African Space Agency, Ghana Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar

Avanti Communications working with the South African Space Agency will deliver a crucial air navigation project in Africa, SBAS-AFRICA, powered by satellite technology.

Africa has just 3% of global air traffic, and yet air accidents in Africa account for roughly 20% of the worldwide total. The SBAS project will demonstrate potential improvements in flight safety which can provide socio-economic benefits to the continent. The SBAS-AFRICA project will help demonstrate the benefits in the adoption of GNSS-based flight operations, positively influencing the evolution of aviation safety in Africa.

3. Project: Outernet Partnership for International Development

UK Lead Supplier: Clyde Space International Partner: Outernet Inc.

Clyde Space and American company Outernet have partnered to develop a telecommunications service that can be offered via a constellation of low-cost cubesat satellites. Such a constellation could revolutionise the provision of low cost broadband to remote regions of the world by providing and developing a mass producible CubeSat at a far lower cost than is currently available. Clyde Space’s CubeSat expertise will help Outernet to push forward with this unique project to supply a low cost alternative to traditional telecommunications infrastructure.

Reaching people in all parts of the world with critical information requires employing multiple broadcast technologies. CubeSats in low-Earth Orbit are an important part of that plan. Specifically, the CubeSats that Outernet will receive from Clyde Space will allow for the development of cheaper user-end receivers and will help Outernet achieve hardware independence by owning its own space assets. Clyde Space will get the opportunity to demonstrate their CubeSat capability whilst enabling the Outernet project to pursue its goal of offering a near continuous broadcast of humanitarian data to those most in need.

4. Project: I-Sat Connection: Realising the critical role of mobile satellite in the creation of inclusive digital economies.

UK Lead Supplier: Inmarsat International Partner: Equity Bank Group, Kenya and Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA)

Inmarsat, working alongside their international partners, will use their mobile satellite capabilities to deliver tangible economic value from the UK to accelerate economic growth in Africa.

Working with Equity Bank Kenya, Inmarsat will increase connectivity to drive inclusive digital services at over 200 locations across Kenya.

By partnering with MAMA, maternal and child health services will be brought to 50 physically and technologically disconnected rural communities in remote locations

As well as their primary use, both projects will also be used to enhance local economies by providing broadband internet access to the local communities with all the associated benefits this will bring. The Satellite Applications Catapult will be working alongside Inmarsat, connecting UK applications experts to these remote users in order to provide information services designed to grow and enhance these emerging markets. Through this overarching research framework, Inmarsat and the Satellite Applications Catapult, will significantly advance the knowledge base for delivery of successful satellite-enabled services in developing and emerging markets

5. Project: Oceania Pacific Recovery and Protection in Disaster (RAPID)

UK Lead Supplier: Stevenson Astrosat International Partner: Vietnam Ministry of Science and Technology, Malawi Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Newsat Ltd, Bushfire and Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) and the Space Environment Research Centre (SERC).

The Recovery And Protection in Disaster (RAPID) system is designed to provide a vital link between critical satellite imaging information and ‘in the field’ emergency responders making crucial decisions during and in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

Huge amounts of useful data are produced by satellites every day that can be used to mitigate the impacts of climate change and natural disasters – these impacts not only include the direct threats to the general public’s immediate safety but also in the aftermath the damaging effects on a nation’s economy. RAPID is designed to get this information to where it is needed and to who needs it – this connectivity will allow smart decisions to be made to protect lives and get the local economy working as rapidly as possible after an event.

For disaster response, Stevenson Astrosat are using UK skills and supply chains to support vulnerable regions with suitable satellite based communications, potentially saving lives and assets in a region where cable and fibre is lacking and where disasters are all too common. For critical infrastructure, Stevenson Astrosat are using UK skills and supply chains as well as their innovative EO systems and partnerships (with end/user customer facing products) to reach highly valuable, critical infrastructure providers with a considerable commercial and socio‐economic advantage.

6. Project: Enabling Kazakhstan’s Earth Observation Capability. Collaborative and Autonomous Mission Operations System for KazSTSAT

UK Lead Supplier: Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) International Partner: Ghalam LLP

SSTL and Ghalam LLP in Kazakhstan are jointly developing the KazSTSAT small satellite mission. The IPSP grant will aid in the development of an autonomous and collaborative Mission Operations system in partnership with Ghalam LLP to handle the high volume of Earth observation data that will be downloaded from the spacecraft’s SSTL SLIM6 Imager, enabling the full research and commercial data provision of the mission to be realised.

In addition, the project will also provide the Kazakh engineers from Ghalam LLP with real data from another of SSTL’s satellites, UK-DMC2, so that they can gain experience of working with the earth observation data via a virtual ground station ahead of the launch of KazSTSAT.

The KazSTSAT mission is a collaboration between Ghalam LLP of Kazakhstan, SSTL, and UK based DMCii, an image processing company. The spacecraft, due for launch in 2016, will demonstrate a number of new technologies, and will also fly a standard SSTL SLIM6 imaging camera, capable of providing an image data throughput in excess of 70Gb per day.

7. Project: Collaborative development of radiometer components for meteorological Instruments

UK Lead Supplier: Teratech Components Ltd International Partner: Xi’an Institute of Space Radio Technology (CAST Xi’an)

STFC-Ral spin-out Teratech Components Ltd have partnered with CAST Xi’an, a major Chinese spacecraft instrumentation supplier, on the collaborative development of instrumentation for the next generation of weather forecasting and disaster management satellites. This partnership will open access for both partners to the emerging international market place for satellite technology, providing a major export opportunity for a UK supplier and encouraging Chinese investment and future UK-China collaboration in the new field of terahertz technology and its associated applications.

Teratech Components Ltd has a unique fabrication facility in the UK and is one of very few European companies supplying air-bridge Schottky diodes for use at terahertz frequencies.