Fifty years since Neil Armstrong first made one small step on the moon, the 21st century space industry continues to make great strides in innovation, delivering a host of benefits for humankind.
The Enterprise M3 region lies at the heart of this new industrial ‘space race’. Latest analysis for the Government of the national space industry puts the space sector in Enterprise M3 in the top 5 areas in the UK for these four key measures, which include delivering more than £1.5bn of turnover for space organisations headquartered in the EM3 area *:
• Total number of space organisations – 105 - an increase of 33% since 2016
• Total employment in space organisations - 3,245
• Total turnover of space organisations headquartered in Enterprise M3 - £1.5 billlion
• Total turnover of all space organisations with operations in Enterprise M3 - £9.7 billion
It is not just the big names such as AirBus, BAE Systems, Ordnance Survey and Garmin that have a base in the area either but also SME companies, looking to make the next big step in the industry.
Companies like In-Space who started their business in 2015. They develop new space missions and provide consultancy and procurement support to the space industry. In August they intend to launch their first satellite, Faraday 1 with experiments from six nations onboard.
Doug Liddle, Co-Founder said: “Historically there has been a strong space sector in the EM3 region, and we are very aware of the talent of people based locally due to this. This makes it easy for us to find good people to join our company. There are also great technical schools and colleges where we can attract talent from.
“Despite the fact that we are a global business, as most space companies are, we also appreciate the strength of the local companies around us, particularly technical ones which understand the industry we are working with.
“There is also a very strong creative and technology cluster based here, which gives us a great cross sector working environment where we are able to come up with something different and unique due to the wide range of companies and expertise that exist in the area that we can draw on.
“One of our projects, which is in the early stages, is looking at creative and immersive technology, allowing people to be fully immersed in space through live broadcasting. There is a tremendous number of occupiers working in the associated technologies and educational institutions, such as University for the Creative Arts, providing a talent pool. There is also a strong video games industry that can feed into this as well. That would be hard to find anywhere else.”
Earth-i Ltd are also making big strides in the sector too, as they are at the forefront of the commercialisation of space, supplying high-resolution image data services to clients across the globe. With the vision that a consistent flow of Earth Observation data will drive powerful new insights into what’s happening on Planet Earth. In 2020 they will deploy their own constellation of small, agile Earth Observation satellites.
Other companies involved in some innovative projects in the region include:
• AppliedSpace a privately owned, aerospace engineering, system design and implementation company focused on the provision of space related analytics, applications and services.
• Centre for Space Medicine, UCL focusing on both the facilitation of human space exploration and the improvement of quality of life on Earth through open innovation and cross-disciplinary application of techniques and technology.
• Marchbanks Measurement Systems Ltd are working on a collaborative project with the NASA Johnson Space Center, investigating changes in NASA Space Shuttle crew-members’ intracranial pressure and any relationships with Space Adaptation Syndrome (SAS) as the astronauts adapt to zero gravity conditions and on return to Earth.
• Rolatube Expeditionary Systems Ltd were involved in the InflateSail mission in 2017. This was the first European spacecraft to successfully demonstrate de-orbiting – deliberately causing a satellite to re-enter and burn up – in a drive to reduce the amount of hazardous “Space Junk” currently causing problems by taking up orbits that are needed for new spacecraft. This was followed by the launch in April 2018 of “RemoveDEBRIS”. This mission takes the proven InflateSail mechanism and combines it with technology demonstrators to show how existing debris can be tracked using LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), then captured by either a harpoon or a net, then de-orbited to clear critical orbital slots.
With such a strong base of companies in the region, and more being attracted to the area every year the sector is growing rapidly and shows no sign of abating. With the mix of creative and technology businesses also in close proximity, the space sector is set to thrive in the EM3 region and provide interesting and innovative new projects and ideas, which may well lead to the next chapter in space discovery.
* Source: London Economics (2019) Size & Health of the UK Space Industry 2018