The UK Space Agency has announced a £6.5m fund to support eighteen projects aimed at boosting the domestic space sector.
One project will explore the potential for a space observatory and planetarium to be established in Snowdonia, taking advantage of the area being part of the most extensive dark skies reserve in the UK.
Another will look at how space technology could be used to tackle water leakage and monitor coastal erosion and stability in Cornwall.
The projects will harness space-enabled technology to address local priorities, such as using Earth observation data to improve local public services and help engineering companies access the UK’s growing space markets.
Science minister Michelle Donelan said: “This funding will help link local clusters to valuable networks of innovators and investors, showcasing the strengths of the UK space sector to international investors and levelling up the economy.”
Donelan began heading the newly-created Department for Science, Innovation and Technology last week after a cabinet reshuffle from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
The new space projects are focused on piloting local activity that could be scaled up and rolled out nationally and are being supported by the UK Space Agency’s delivery partner the Satellite Applications Catapult.
The funding follows £600,000 given to 10 space clusters across the UK in February 2022, with some of those who received funding then getting further support this time round.
The £6.5 million includes £485,000 for STFC RAL Space’s Chilbolton Advanced Satellite Tracking Radar, in Hampshire, which is one of three national sensors that track space objects.
The radar, which can detect objects about the size of a toaster at an altitude of 1,000km, provides crucial data for satellite tracking operations. The funding will provide upgrades to improve reliability and robustness of the sensor.
Dr Paul Bate, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “Establishing a network of space clusters and high-impact projects will accelerate the development of the thriving space ecosystem the UK needs to realise the full economic potential of space across the UK.
“We’ve been working with the regions to understand their strengths and the needs of their local space economies so that we can back these clusters of excellence to collaborate, grow and thrive.
The funding also includes £1.5m for an expert consortium of business support providers that will encourage UK entrepreneurs to get involved in the space sector.
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