World Space Week commences this week with events across the UK – it’s time to honour British firms making giant leaps in the industry
When the UK, US and Russia signed the Outer Space Treaty in 1967 (almost 10 years to the day after Russia launched Sputnik 1), many believed we’d be living in Martian colonies by now. By the time the UN inaugurated the first World Space Week in 1999, expectations were more down to earth, but the interest in British astronaut Tim Peake’s six-month stay on the International Space Station earlier this year suggests our thirst for space exploration is not diminishing.
Among dozens of events at World Space Week (4-10 October), Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield addresses the UK Space Centre in Leicester and former Director cover star, Professor Brian Cox, tours six venues across the country. With the industry worth £9.1bn to the UK economy and employing some 28,900 people, it’s worth making space in your thoughts for these UK stars of the sector…
On 19 October, the European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli lander is due to touchdown on Mars. Farnborough-based company Qinetiq has provided the UHF-transreceiver that will enable it to transmit data from the Martian surface to the ExoMars orbiter, which blasted off from Earth in March.
Surrey Satellite Technology
A spin-off company of the University of Surrey, now majority owned by Airbus Defence and Space, Guildford-based SSTL has pioneered small satellites – many the size of washing machines – to provide data services. It recently announced a partnership with Goonhilly Earth Station in Cornwall with the ultimate aim of delivering cargo into lunar orbit.
The Oxfordshire-based company Reaction Engines recently received €10m (£8.6m) from the European Space Agency, an injection of cash that finalised the UK government’s £60m commitment to the firm’s decade-long development of Skylon – a reusable, unpiloted spacecraft that will be capable of transporting up to 12 tonnes of cargo into space.
Since providing its first spaceflight lithium-ion batteries in 2001, the Abingdon-based ABSL (acquired by US company EnerSys in 2011) has gone on to become a renowned supplier to the global space industry, including life support systems for Nasa’s space suits – which are up there right now on the International Space Station.