Eleven UK institutions have been awarded a share of just under £7m in government funding to implement the latest developments in space innovation. The majority of projects focus on climate change or environmental management, with others designed to secure our communications systems and protect digital infrastructure from cyberattacks.
Projects receiving monetary support include Global Satellite Vu Ltd, which will manufacture a compact, high-resolution infrared satellite camera to measure heat emissions from our homes, schools and workplaces, helping to improve energy efficiency. The Open University at Milton Keynes will develop the mission concept for “TreeView,” a forestry and management tool that will support a nature-based solution to address climate change by monitoring tree health from space.
Science Minister George Freeman said:
Satellites in space are helping us solve some of the most important challenges we face, from climate change to cyberattacks, and through the National Space Strategy we are putting the UK at the forefront of unleashing these innovations.
Whether it’s monitoring greenhouse gas emissions or supporting growing tree planting, this new funding will take game-changing ideas from the UK’s space sector and our illustrious scientists, and turn them into reality.
Funding comes from the UK Space Agency’s National Space Innovation Program (NSIP) and was announced today (9 November 2021) as the UK hosts the COP 26 Climate Conference in Glasgow. Space plays an essential role in the fight against climate change, with satellites collecting half of the 56 types of data we need to measure and understand climate change.
This funding of £7 million is in addition to the £7 million provided last year which was to support projects during the development phase. The new funding ranges from £157,000 to £1 million per project and will allow organizations to take their projects to the next stage and implement their innovative ideas.
The government recently launched the National Space Strategy outlining long-term plans to grow the UK’s space sector and make Britain a science and technology superpower, including building on manufacturing and technology capacity, attracting investment and working internationally.
Projects in detail:
Development of a new high-precision infrared sensor payload for heat detection
- Global Satellite Vu Ltd, valid
- Global Satellite Vu Ltd will develop and launch the world’s first micro-satellite that will provide high-quality thermal video and thermal still images of the Earth, and begin designing, building and integrating an infrared camera. By launching a small constellation of infrared satellites, this project will enable the measurement of thermal emissions from any structure on the planet. This technology will act as a geothermal thermometer to monitor energy efficiency, economic activity and carbon footprint.
- Consortium partners: Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd and KISPE
TreeView: Microforests to tackle climate change
- The Open University, Milton Keynes
- 477,456 GBP
- Trees are a natural source of carbon and are vital to supporting diverse ecosystems. TreeView will enable forest precision and remote management from space on a national and global scale, supporting a nature-based solution to climate change.
- Consortium partners: In-Space, Beck Optronic Solutions, XCAM, Adiuvo Engineering, Teledyne e2v, 2Excel Geo, Center for Environment and Hydrology, Forest Research
Climate Explorer Quantum Accelerometer (Q-ACE)
- Thales Alenia Space, Oxfordshire
- The Quantum Accelerometer Climate Explorer (Q-ACE) mission will combine cold atom interferometry technology from the University of Birmingham and Teledyne e2v with Thales Alenia Space’s revolutionary new ‘SkimSat’ satellite platform. The work will help develop the Q-ACE mission that will measure the density of the Earth’s thermosphere and provide data that will help better understand climate predictions.
- Consortium partners: Teledyne e2v, University of Birmingham, RAL Space, Fraunhofer UK Research Limited and the Met Office
High Resolution Infrared Thermal Space Telescopes for Global Monitoring of Building Energy Efficiency
- University of Cambridge (Institute of Astronomy and Cambridge Zero)
- 726,978 GBP
- Infrared thermal telescopes in space can monitor buildings’ energy production, making them a powerful tool to ensure that governments, businesses, and even individuals are on track to meet internationally agreed carbon emissions targets. The team will study how to use the data and develop prototypes for an innovative telescope unfolding as part of the nanosat constellation to produce accurate thermal images of buildings and infrastructure.
- Consortium partners: Open Cosmos Ltd, S4 Limited and Durham University
ROKS Payload Flight Model – Execution Phase
- Craft Prospect Limited, Glasgow
- The Responsive Operations Key Services (ROKS) mission will demonstrate technologies for future secure communications systems using Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) and powered by artificial intelligence. This implantation phase will include progress from the discovery phase, through to flight model construction, testing, and finally delivery to demonstrate in-orbit operation by 2022.
- Consortium partners: University of Strathclyde, University of Bristol, Fraunhofer Center for Applied Photonics (CAP)
Global Lidar Altimeter Error: Glamis
- University of Edinburgh
- 300,236 GBP
- The School of Earth Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, Glamis will combine expertise from the growing space in Scotland and the photonics sectors to pioneer a new approach to spaceborne lidar; A system capable of mapping global terrain and above-ground structure and detecting change. This phase will focus on increasing coverage through increasing laser wavelength stability and signal processing.
- Consortium partners: Fraunhofer UK Research Ltd (Glasgow), UK Astronomy Tech Center, Resilience Constellation Management Ltd and Space Flow Limited.
- In-Space Missions Limited, Hampshire
- Faraday Digital will provide a global ultra-wideband communications infrastructure in low Earth orbit and processing that can be used by third parties to develop, test and deploy a wide range of applications and services. This activity will eliminate the risk of remaining technological elements in preparation for an aviation demonstration in 2023. Ultimately, the Faraday Digital disruptive service will provide a ubiquitous infrastructure in orbit that can support the new space revolution and provide the ability to load and deliver new services from space at large scales. period of weeks instead of the traditional three to five years.
- Consortium Partners: Subcos Wave RF Ltd
Laser communications for CubeSats
- Northumbria University in Newcastle
- 644,617 GBP
- The goal of the project is to replace the current low-speed RF transceiver used in CubeSats with high-speed, lightweight, lower-power free-space optical transceivers, enabling a gradual change in our approach to tower communications and space science missions. By the end of this project, the test bed design will have been developed along with the mission design study for future testing of the system in space.
- Consortium partners: SMS Electronics Limited, Durham University, e2E Group
Original Constellation of Climate Change and Mitigation Nanosatellites (HYMS CONCAM)
- STFC RAL Space, Oxfordshire
- 814129 GBP
- As global average temperatures rise, hazards such as heat waves and floods increase in frequency and intensity, and chronic hazards, such as droughts and rising sea levels, intensify. Improved monitoring of our weather systems and more accurate forecasts are essential to understanding, planning, and mitigating extreme events. STFC RAL Space is developing a new monitoring system for small satellites using microwave sensors that will enhance our ability to monitor the increasing variability of weather on our planet. These observations will support meteorological services to provide accurate and timely forecasts that will enhance our ability to respond to climate change.
- Consortium partners: NanoAvionics UK, STAR Dundee UK and UK Met Office
- Geospatial Insight, Birmingham
- Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are a critical factor driving climate change and temperature increase, but detecting and monitoring where emissions occur is problematic and expensive with current technologies. Building on the successful results of their discovery project, Geospatial Insight aims to offer an operational space-based solution to discover, quantify and monitor sources of greenhouse gas plume emissions, initially focusing on methane – this project will focus on developing a service targeting commercial users in the oil, gas and finance sectors “the green”.
- Consortium Partner: University of Leicester
Towards a unified quantum key distribution system for satellites
- Arqit Ltd, London
- Our digital economy is at the mercy of developments in quantum computing that could threaten our crypto services. Arqit provides a unique quantum encryption system, QuantumCloud™, which makes the communications links of any networked device secure against current and future forms of attack – even from a quantum computer. Arqit’s Federal Quantum System enables private copies of the QuantumCloud™ product to be made available to customers who want to control their own cryptographic infrastructure.
- Consortium partners: STFC RAL Space, QinetiQ Group plc, Honeywell (COM DEV Ltd), Heriot-Watt University, Virgin Orbit UK Limited.