Funding for pioneering new space technologies will help to cut carbon emissions, improve energy security and enhance the UK’s reputation as a science superpower, the Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced today.
£3 million of grant funding will be made available for space-based solar power (SBSP) projects that collect the Sun’s energy using solar panels orbiting the Earth and can deliver clean energy, day and night, unaffected by the weather.
The technology has the potential to boost energy security by providing reliable, affordable alternative to expensive and volatile fossil fuels, while reducing the UK’s contributions to climate change.
Grant funding will also be made available for cutting-edge weather monitoring sensors to aid more accurate weather forecasts. The sensors will be put into orbit for the first time, thanks to a partnership with data and analytics company Spire Global.
The Hyperspectral Microwave Sounder (HYMS), developed by the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s RAL Space, will help meteorological agencies and businesses around the world involved with planning, shipping and flood warnings. It is 4 times more powerful than the sensors used on existing satellites.
In a further demonstration of the government’s commitment to the sector, Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris will serve as the first ever National Space Champion. He will work closely with industry to ensure the UK’s space sector continues to grow, attract investment, and develop innovative products. Morris is a longstanding advocate for the UK space industry and chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Space.
Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Space-based solar power could provide an affordable, clean and reliable source of energy for the whole world to benefit from, helping the move away from expensive fossil fuels. Today’s investment is an exciting example of how we can go even further in our ambitions to make the UK a science superpower.
“I am also delighted that the HYMS technology, developed in Oxfordshire, will be put into service by Spire Global to help improve weather forecasting. These projects are major milestones for our National Space Strategy, developing the UK’s space capabilities while boosting the economy and delivering high-skill jobs.”
National Space Champion David Morris MP said: “It is a privilege to be asked to be the first UK National Space Champion and the appointment shows the government’s commitment to the sector and its commitment to its growth. The UK space sector is fast becoming a world leader and I look forward to being a champion for the industry within government to ensure we are able to spearhead the industry to even further growth.”
An independent report found significant commercial potential in developing SBSP’s underlying technologies as products in their own right – particularly with regards to wireless power transmission and solar power.
Similarly, the HYMS occupies a footprint fifty times smaller than current technology, which makes it possible to launch dozens of HYMS-equipped satellites, together forming a constellation that can track fast moving extreme weather events such as hurricanes.
Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “Satellite technology is helping us solve some of the most significant challenges we face. We’re working with the space sector to drive innovation, catalyse investment and bring tangible benefits to people and businesses across the UK.
“As these two new projects show, space is not only vital in helping us monitor the weather and our environment, it can also provide new solutions to our future energy needs and support the global fight against climate change. I would like also like to welcome the appointment of a National Space Champion and I look forward to working with David Morris to support our growing sector.”
The UK space sector employs around 47,000 people directly around the UK and supports around 190,000 jobs in the supply chain. By building on the commitments of the National Space Strategy to grow the economy and lead pioneering scientific discovery, these 2 projects will help to protect and grow these high-quality jobs across the country for generations to come.