UK Space Agency is supporting nine 'groundbreaking' projects

UK space sector 'crucial' driver of growth minister says

The UK Space Agency will support "groundbreaking" projects where space technologies will be used to drive economic growth.

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts announced support for the nine projects at the first UK Space Conference this week.

These range from Europe's leading space company working with experts in the medical field to identify where space technology can be used or adapted to benefit the NHS, to automated driving aids that can operate without GPS.  

“The UK’s space sector is a crucial driver of growth, and is worth around £7.5 billion annually,” Willetts said.

“I want to do everything I can to further boost the UK’s space sector, and continue working with industry to reduce regulatory burdens.”

UK satellite operators will be made more internationally competitive by reducing their insurance premiums for compulsory third-party liability insurance for both launch and in-orbit operation, he added.

The space agency will also consider proposals to amend the Outer Space Act to create an upper limit on third-party liability for UK satellite operators for the majority of missions and an exemption for in-orbit liability for very small satellites such as CubeSats.

“We have real strengths in satellites and telecommunications, and this will help put UK operators on a level playing field with their international competitors," Willetts explained.

Also announced at the UK Space Conference was the news that the UK’s RAL Space has been selected to design, build and test the world’s first ever high definition streaming space video camera.

The progress of the National Space Technology Programme, a £10 million provision for the UK Space Agency to support the development of space technology in the UK, was also discussed.

The projects supported by the agency will be spun out of Europe's Aurora space exploration programme and will all have the potential to be developed into terrestrial applications benefiting the UK economy.

They include:

- GFREENAV: an automated vehicle driving aid that uses 3D terrain recognition and can be used in remote area without GPS coverage, being developed by SciSys and MIRA.

- Ultra Low Power Proximity Network of Sensors RF Wireless Technology.

A prototype lower power system of wireless sensors has been developed by SEA for use in extreme environmental conditions on Mars. 

A study will identify potential terrestrial applications for this technology in high radiation environments and a proof of concept system will be developed for the most promising market.

- Astrium’s Market Analysis of healthcare applications for space exploration technology.

Europe’s leading space company will be working with experts in the medical field to identify where Aurora space technology can be used or adapted to benefit the NHS and UK business.

- UVFS: Entrada and MSSL of University College London are offering the potential for fast, accurate, low-cost detection of a wide range of hazardous biological and chemical agents, using technology developed for a Mars rover camera. 

Currently such detection is consuming and requires several hours of laboratory tests while the new technology would be particularly useful in a defence and security context.

- Development of an Integrated Processing System for Detection of Contamination.

The Space Research Centre at the University of Leicester and Magna Parva are using technology designed to detect trace levels of life in samples of Martian rock and soil to develop a miniaturised sample processing system that enables samples to be analysed in-situ by unskilled operatives.  

Such a system would have wide applications including detection of pollution and contamination and could be used in commercial, government and defence sectors.

- Using ExoMars Technology to Recover Unconventional Oil.

Imperial College London is experimenting with a water-based solvent system for extracting oil deposits in less time – and using less water than current methods.  

The technology was developed for detecting organic matter on Mars but could soon be used to improve the difficult process of unlocking petroleum from deposits such as oil sands.

- Auto-Resonant Control System: Magna Parva is developing a new method of making aluminium cans which will reduce the aluminium used by 12 per cent - a huge potential impact since the global consumption of canned beverages alone is around 270 billion units each year.

- Panoramic Cameras in a Thermally Cooled Sheath Operating in a High-Temperature Environment.

Innovative Small Instruments (ISI) and MSSL of University College London aim to develop a new optical probe, using components from a Mars rover camera that will enable autonomous monitoring of corrosion and surface deformation in the walls of boilers, furnaces and gas turbines.  

This could have a significant impact on maintenance schedules and costs.

- Market survey on commercial application of low cost small scale re-entry from low earth orbit.

Fluid Gravity Engineering have proposed an initial market survey to determine the scope of the market and feasibility for a very small, low cost re-entry system to return experiments and technology to Earth from orbit.

“Most people don’t realise that space technology is all around us and that most of us use space technology every day,” said Dr David Williams, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency.

“The Aurora programme spin-outs are a great example of how industry, academia and government can work together to maximise the output of space research."

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