Space revolution: UK’s poised for £2m injection as it unveils 13 new exciting projects

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The UK space sector has grown by around 60 percent since 2010, from an income of £10.1 billion to £16.4 billion, currently employing over 45,000 people. But the Government is working to expand this further, hoping to make Britain a space superpower with its National Space Strategy. The strategy involves conquering major milestones like becoming the first country to launch a rocket into orbit from Europe, as well as making itself a leader in commercial small-satellite launches.

To help with this, the Government announced that 13 projects would receive a share of the £2million pool of funding set aside for British Science Week, which took place between March 11-20.

Science and Innovation Minister George Freeman said that the £2million package will specifically support the UK’s “brilliant scientists and engineers to help us take significant strides in space exploration and discovery”. spoke to Sue Horne, Head of Space Exploration at the UK Space Agency, to find out more about the boosts the projects will receive.

She said: “The 13 new research programmes that we are supporting range from early-stage feasibility studies, which will develop over the next decade, to testing projects that will produce 20-40 jobs within the next three years.

“We often find that technologies developed for space can have surprising practical applications here on Earth.

“For the University of Southampton’s in-situ resource utilisation project, for example, we will support researchers exploring how astronauts can safely recycle and reuse water sources while onboard spacecraft.

“The technology we are working with was once used in the mining industry and the innovations we are developing here will feed back into the original process and how it can be used in other areas.”

Another project involves Rolls-Royce developing a space power station which could power the generation of water, breathable oxygen and fuels to help with solar exploration.

Abi Clayton, Future Programmes Director of Rolls-Royce, said: “The support of the UK Space Agency has been instrumental in enabling the continued progress of the Rolls-Royce Micro-Reactor development programme.

“This shows the true value of public and private partnership as we bring together the space domain experience of the UK Space Agency with our own unique nuclear expertise.”

Ms Horne added that these new projects could help to push forward Boris Johnson’s target to make the UK a “science superpower”.

She told “Space is at the heart of the UK’s status as a science superpower, and we have a proud heritage of being at the cutting edge of new discoveries.

“The UK is a valued player in space exploration, and we have some incredible scientists undertaking all sorts of roles.

“Some are contributing to the design of missions as part of international selected working groups, which include supporting the science operations behind the Curiosity and Perseverance rovers.

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“Meanwhile, our outstanding engineers are winning the UK roles in major programmes, including the Mars Sample Return campaign and the development of the Lunar Gateway.”

And Ms Horne said the funding signals an opportunity to further develop on the UK’s progress in space exploration.

She said: “This funding will enable our scientists and engineers to make great progress in space exploration.

“Some of these projects are at the start of a 15 to 20-year journey and further investment will be needed to see the fruition of the benefits later down the line.

“However, studies of past investments suggest that we will see returns of 3-10 times within the next five years, with other benefits often emerging in unexpected areas.“

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