In the first of a new quarterly series, UKspace looks back on the first three months of 2019 and highlights some of the key activities coming out of the UK space sector.
The year started with some fantastic news in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List, when Paul Flanagan, who served as Secretary General of UKspace for 12 years, before retiring in November 2018, was awarded a CBE for services to the UK space sector. January also saw UK technology playing a core role in the testing of self-driving Martian robots, with strong involvement from the UK Space Agency and Airbus. It was also announced that the UK Government has committed £50,000 to Space Park Leicester for a ‘Low-Cost Access to Space’ facility being developed by the University of Leicester.
Meanwhile, Oxford Space Systems (OSS) secured a £1m contract from the UK Ministry of Defence to develop a new generation of pioneering British deployable satellite antennas. This is the largest contract placed with a first-time supplier by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA).
The month ended with the publication of the Size & Health of UK Space Industry 2018 Report, which showed an increase in income, employment and exports since the previous report in 2016 – all encouraging signs as the industry drives towards a 10 per cent share of the global space market by 2030.
During February, Goonhilly announced two major partnerships; one with the Shetland Space Centre to develop rocket launch and tracking business capabilities for the burgeoning new space launch sector, and another with the Australian Space Agency to collaborate and create new opportunities in the space economy in Australia, the UK and beyond. It is hoped the latter relationship will also make the benefits of space more accessible to Australian businesses, governments and institutions.
The name of the British-built Mars Rover, due to roam the red planet in 2021, was also unveiled, with it named after UK scientist and co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, Rosalind Franklin.
Following in the ground-breaking scientific footsteps of Franklin, OSS celebrated its own major technology milestone when its harpoon-capture system helped the RemoveDEBRIS satellite successfully capture space debris.
OneWeb also had a bright start to 2019 with the two major announcements. After securing £18m of UK Space Agency funding to help build affordable worldwide internet coverage through development of its next generation satellite constellation, OneWeb made history by successfully launching its first six broadband satellites from French Guiana.
The month began with Seraphim Capital’s appointment of serial space entrepreneur Candace Johnson as new venture partner and Chair of Seraphim Space Global Advisory Board. Meanwhile, the European Space Agency ESA completed further design validation of Reaction Engine’s revolutionary air breathing SABRE™ rocket engine and there was further significant news for OneWeb in securing $1.25bn in new funding following their successful launch of six satellites a few weeks prior.
Finally, the UK Space Agency announced that through the Space for Smarter Government Programme, free access would be given to over 1,000 high resolution satellite images of Britain for Government departments, emergency services and local authorities, as well as industry and academia if their work meets a public sector need.