UK Government Announces Package of New Measures to Drive Space Sustainability

The scales of the space debris problem (Credit: ESA)

The new measures will demonstrate the UK’s commitment, ambition and drive to improve the UK’s sustainable use of space.

  • Science Minister George Freeman announces new Plan for Space Sustainability to demonstrate UK leadership in sustainable space, in line with ambitions set out in the National Space Strategy
  • UK industry will work in partnership with government to develop a new Space Sustainability Standard, which will incentivise companies to adopt best practice
  • government will also review the regulatory framework, including exploring ways of lowering insurance costs for sustainable missions

LONDON (UK Government PR) — Science Minister George Freeman has today (Thursday 23 June) launched a new Plan for Space Sustainability, a raft of measures which will demonstrate the UK’s commitment, ambition and drive to improve the UK’s sustainable use of space.

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UK Takes Lead in Exoplanet Mission with £30 Million Investment

Artist impression of ESA’s Ariel exoplanet satellite. (Credit: Airbus)

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — The UK Government will invest £30 million to secure the UK’s leading role in developing a space telescope to explore exoplanets.

Due to launch in 2029, Ariel’s mission is to understand the links between a planet’s chemistry, its evolution and its host star, by characterising the atmospheres of 1,000 known planets outside our solar system.

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UK Leads New European Exoplanet Mission

Artist impression of an exoplanet system. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — The UK has secured a leading role in the development of a space telescope that will probe the atmospheres of distant worlds.

The mission – called Ariel – will study the gases that enshroud some 1000 extrasolar planets to address fundamental questions about how they formed and evolved.  

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NASA, ESA Finalize Agreements on Climate, Artemis Cooperation

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, right, and ESA (European Space Agency) Director General Josef Aschbacher pose for a photograph following the signing of two agreements at the ESA Council meeting in Noordwijk, Netherlands, June 15, 2022. The agreements aim to further advance the space agencies’ cooperation on Earth science and Artemis missions. (Credits: ESA/S.Corvaja)

NOORDWIJK, Netherlands (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and ESA (European Space Agency) Director General Josef Aschbacher signed two agreements Wednesday at the ESA Council meeting in Noordwijk, Netherlands, further advancing the space agencies’ cooperation on Earth science and Artemis missions.

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UK Satnav Signal Generated in New Test to Provide Future Resilient, Precise, Safety-Critical Capabilities

  • Team comprising Inmarsat, Goonhilly, GMVNSL demonstrates platform for future sovereign UK Position, Navigation and Timing capability
  • UK not part of Galileo satnav system, cannot use European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) safety of life (SOL) services since leaving European Union

LONDON (Inmarsat PR) — An Inmarsat-led team of companies in the UK, building on national expertise and prior experience within the group, has begun broadcasting a satellite navigation signal as part of a programme to explore the creation of a sovereign national capability in resilient positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) for the aviation and maritime sectors. The signal, being broadcast in coordination with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Union Space Programme Agency (EUSPA), is now stable and operational, enabling on-going testing and validation by industry, regulators, and users.

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Comet Chaser Mission Moves From Blueprint to Reality

Artist’s impression of Comet Interceptor mission. (Credit: Geraint Jones, UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory)

MADRID, Spain (ESA PR) — A new European Space Agency science mission, proposed by the UK, to 3D-map a comet for the first time has reached a major milestone.

The Comet Interceptor mission was formally adopted by the European Space Agency (ESA) at a meeting in Madrid today (Wednesday, 8 June 2022), moving from the design phase to implementation, with the next step to select a contractor to build the spacecraft and a robotic probe.

Due for launch in 2029, it will see one main spacecraft and two robotic probes – the other built by the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) – travel to an as-yet unidentified comet and map it in three dimensions.

Caroline Harper, Head of Space Science at the UK Space Agency, said:

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CIRCE Space Weather Suite Announced for First UK Satellite Launch

CIRCE CAD models courtesy of Blue Canyon Technologies.

Dstl’s miniaturised space weather instrumentation suite will be aboard Virgin Orbit which is aiming to launch from Spaceport Cornwall later in 2022.

LONDON (Dstl PR) — The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s (Dstl) miniaturised space weather instrumentation suite will be one of the payloads aboard Virgin Orbit which is targeting the first UK satellite launch this summer from Spaceport Cornwall in Newquay. Virgin Orbit’s Launcher One rocket takes off horizontally, carried aloft by a modified Boeing 747 jet, named Cosmic Girl.

The Coordinated Ionospheric Reconstruction Cubesat Experiment (CIRCE) satellite mission comprises two 6U cube-satellites that will be launched into a near-polar low Earth orbit in a string-of-pearls configuration (targeting 555 kilometres altitude). Each 6U satellite bus measures 10cm by 20cm by 30cm (the size of a cereal box), and will fly almost identical instrument capability on both satellites. Dstl is partnering with the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) on the joint mission.

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UK and US to Launch Joint Mission Aboard United Kingdom’s First Orbital Launch Supported by Virgin Orbit

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — Satellite launch company Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB) announces today that a joint mission between the United Kingdom’s Defense Science and Technology Laboratory and the United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) is expected to be lofted on the first space launch out of Spaceport Cornwall later this year.

The government agencies’ joint Coordinated Ionospheric Reconstruction CubeSat Experiment (CIRCE) is supported by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Space Test Program (STP), which is organized under the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command (SSC). CIRCE will utilize two 6U CubeSats flying in tandem formation to measure the ionosphere and radiation environment from multiple vantage points. The mission will support the two countries’ joint development of a wide range of civil and defense applications, including GPS, radar, communication systems, and sensing technology.

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OneWeb, Astroscale, and the UK and European Space Agencies Partner to Launch Space Junk Servicer ELSA-M with €14.8 million Investment

The ELSA-M servicer will launch towards the end of 2024. The partnership is taking an important step to create a more sustainable space environment. 

United Kingdom (Astroscale PR) – OneWeb together with Astroscale Ltd.* will seek to safeguard the satellite economy with ground-breaking new spacecraft technology, thanks in part to a new investment of €14.8 million. The mission to demonstrate Astroscale’s ELSA-M servicer will launch towards the end of 2024, with ambitious plans to deliver a debris removal service to satellite operators thereafter.

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U.S., UK Sign Declaration to Work Together on Space Activities

UK lays the foundation for rockets, high-altitude balloons and spaceplanes to lift off from spaceports across the UK, creating thousands of jobs in the process.

  • lift-off moment for UK-US spaceflight as Transport Secretary makes landmark declaration in Washington
  • partnership to cut red tape, making commercial launches from both countries easier and more streamlined 
  • comes as UK prepares for first satellite launch from home soil this year, creating thousands of high-skilled jobs 

WASHINGTON (UK Government PR) — Future spaceflight will be made easier and cheaper, following a landmark partnership with the United States to help cut red tape and boost opportunities in the UK, signed by the Transport Secretary this week in Washington.

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International Satellite to Track Impacts of Small Ocean Currents

SWOT’s solar panels unfold as part of a test in January at a Thales Alenia Space facility in Cannes, France, where the satellite is being assembled. SWOT will measure elevations of Earth’s ocean and surface water, giving researchers information with an unprecedented level of detail. (Credits: CNES/Thales Alenia Space)

The Surface Water and Ocean Topography mission will explore how the ocean absorbs atmospheric heat and carbon, moderating global temperatures and climate change.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Though climate change is driving sea level rise over time, researchers also believe that differences in surface height from place to place in the ocean can affect Earth’s climate. These highs and lows are associated with currents and eddies, swirling rivers in the ocean, that influence how it absorbs atmospheric heat and carbon.

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UK Company Orbex Reveals Micro-Launcher Rocket

Prime rocket prototype (Credit: Orbex)

KINLOSS, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — The UK Space Agency has welcomed news that the British rocket company Orbex has unveiled the first full-scale prototype of its Prime orbital space rocket.

Orbex’s Prime rocket reaching technical readiness represents a significant achievement that brings together key elements of the ground infrastructure and prototype launch vehicle for the first time and is a major step forward for the company and for the UK launch industry.

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Lord David Willetts appointed as Chair of UK Space Agency Board

  • Lord Willetts previously served as Minister for Universities and Science as well as holding Chair and Board positions across the space and science sector
  • Lord Willetts will work with the recently appointed CEO of the UK Space Agency, Dr Paul Bate, to deliver on the government’s vision for space

LONDON (UK Space Agency PR) — Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has appointed Lord David Willetts as the Chair of the UK Space Agency’s Board, the government announced today.

The appointment comes at an exciting time for the agency, looking ahead to the UK’s first domestic launch this year, and following the recent publication of the National Space Strategy, which sets out the government’s long term commitment to building on the UK’s existing strengths in order to develop the UK as a world class space economy.

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UK Space Sector Created 3,000 Jobs in 1 Year

Credit: UK Space Agency

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — The number of UK space jobs continued to grow into 2020, despite the global impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new figures released today.

Employment in the UK space sector hit 46,995 in 2020, up from 44,040 in 2019: an increase of 2,955 (6.7%).

Sector income increased in nominal terms from £16.4 billion to £16.5 billion, with exports counting for around a third (32%) of this total. Space manufacturing, including satellites, spacecraft, launch vehicles and scientific instruments, grew the most in real terms; up by £23 million to £2.27 billion.

In line with the UK Government’s commitment to increasing public and private R&D spending, investment in research and development saw a 19% boost to £836 million.

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The Satellite Applications Catapult, Horizon Technologies, and Virgin Orbit Accelerate the UK Small Satellite Market with a New Launch Agreement for Cornwall 2022

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

DIDCOT, UK (Satellite Applications Catapult PR) The Satellite Applications Catapult (“the Catapult”) and Virgin Orbit (“Virgin Orbit”, Nasdaq: VORB), a leading launch provider, have announced an agreement to launch the latest satellite in the Catapult’s In-Orbit Demonstration (IOD) programme into space from the United Kingdom later this year.

The satellite, called Amber-1, is a partnership between the Catapult and Horizon Technologies. Built by AAC Clyde Space in Scotland, it will be launched by Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne on its historic flight from Spaceport Cornwall this year – a mission that is expected to mark the first ever orbital launch from a United Kingdom spaceport.

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