The University of Surrey’s renowned Space Centre creates an “incredible synergy” between academics and industry, thanks to its culture of “close collaboration” which springboards business growth.
Professor Guglielmo Aglietti, Director of the Surrey Space Centre, highlighted how this world-leading Centre of Excellence in Space Engineering is at the forefront of space sector growth within the Enterprise M3 region and beyond. He was speaking ahead of the UK Space Conference, during which the AI research undertaken by his team will be showcased.
The University of Surrey has always believed in close collaboration with industry and working together has an incredible synergy. We are always trying to develop new ideas in partnership with the industry; it’s our nature, and the University is particularly good at this. We do more applied research rather than blue sky. We want to help companies solve problems and transform them into new products.
We take new ideas, prove they work in the lab and then the company takes it to practical application and a product; it’s generally a good outcome for people. It’s great to make something useful, something real.
The Space Centre’s support for businesses is wide and varied, from the expertise “that can be harnessed to help SMEs develop themselves” to accessing a support network, as well as finance and facilities to develop products.
Fourth State Medicine in Haslemere, in the Enterprise M3 area, is working with the centre on applying plasma technology used for space propulsion, to medicine and wounds recovery.
Infections can become drug resistant and this technology is like a disinfectant and really helps recovery. They have access to the space centre to foster its growth.
He also highlighted the links between industry and the skills agenda, saying:
By working across academics and research, but also seeing the practical application, we can train future generations that will be employed by the industry. We are aware of what the industry needs, and our curriculum is aligned.
Prof Aglietti explained some of the team’s work around AI, saying:
In space, distances are big, and it takes time to connect with probes. Satellites need to operate autonomously; they need to take decisions on their own. The environment is not benign, so you can’t risk human life. Moreover, supporting human life in space is more expensive than sending a camera or equipment. It is also unfeasible to send humans to planets that would take years to get to, so you send probes. The rovers used on Mars and on the moon, encountered obstacles such as rocks, and could turn right or left. If it’s not possible to control the probe with a camera, you need a certain degree of autonomy.
Now this technology is being applied to servicing and repairing satellites orbiting around Earth. You can communicate with satellites above your ground station but if the satellite is not above this, you need autonomy. If it is not possible for you to refuel a satellite, a robotic application could do it.
AI is also being used on earth for applications such as medical diagnostics and medical prescriptions.
Prof Aglietti said:
The applications used to be quite specific, but now they can solve a range of problems: they are more versatile. Larger amounts of data can now be stored and manipulated with appropriate algorithms. There are so many applications going forward and now they are self-improving. AI can learn, just like a human brain.
Prof Yang Gao, Professor of Space Autonomous Systems at the Space Centre, will be taking part in two panel sessions at the UK Space Conference on Thursday, 26th September – ‘The AI revolution’ and ‘Cleaning-up space for orbital sustainability’.
Visit https://www.surrey.ac.uk/surrey-space-centre for more information on the Centre.
Collaborate with us to connect with organisations, people and ideas