UK Space Agency

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It'd be cool if they funded Skylon into reality. They'd go from nothing to top of the game.


Any word if this new agency will take ownership of the proposed British Habitation Modules for ISS? Notice, I used the words "take ownership", not "fund". Taking ownership would be a first step before funding it.


Guest : It's go Mars - UK Space Agency funds international Mars Rover
Page last updated: 11 June 2010 by the UK Space Agency

The UK Space Agency is announcing £10.5M for the development of instruments to search for signs of past or present life on Mars. The instruments are part of the scientific payload on the ExoMars rover to be launched in 2018 as part of a joint mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and US space agency NASA. ExoMars is a flagship project in the UK Space Agency’s science and exploration programme.

A two-step programme, the adventure begins in 2016 when NASA will launch an ESA-led orbiter to try to understand the origin and distribution of trace gases in the atmosphere of the Red Planet. In particular, it aims to explain why methane – a gas which scientists know should be destroyed in the atmosphere within a few hundred years – seems to be continuously forming at certain places on the planet. The orbiter will also release an experimental probe which will make a fiery descent into the thin Martian atmosphere and use its on-board rockets to demonstrate Europe’s ability to make a controlled landing on another planet.

ESA's ExoMars Rover
Credit: ESA
Then in 2018, NASA will land ESA’s ExoMars rover alongside a NASA rover. Thanks to funding from the UK Space Agency, the rover vehicle for ExoMars is being designed and tested by leading UK space company EADS Astrium at its facility in Stevenage, Hertfordshire under a multi-million pound contract. The ExoMars rover is a robotic scientist which will search for evidence of past and present life and study the local Martian environment to understand when and where conditions that could have supported the development of life may have prevailed. Unlike previous US rovers, ExoMars will carry a radar able to search beneath it for scientifically promising locations under the surface and a drill to extract samples from 2 m down that will be fed to its on-board laboratory.
The UK is leading on developing two of the nine instruments (the Life Marker Chip and the Panoramic Camera) on the rover and has a major involvement in two other instruments (the Raman Laser Spectrometer and the X-Ray diffactometer).

David Willetts, Universities and Science Minister, said, "The UK’s world-leading technology will play a major role in this international ExoMars project. Our scientists will expand our knowledge of the red planet and help generate applications for these technologies here at home to benefit society and the economy. It’s exciting to see UK engineers working on the most ambitious Mars mission ever attempted."

The Life Marker Chip is a highly innovative instrument using techniques from the world of medical diagnostics and is designed to detect the presence of organic compounds that might suggest the rover has found past or present life. UK involvement comes from the University of Leicester, Cranfield University and Imperial College London. The leader of the project (the so-called Principal Investigator) is Prof Mark Sims from the University of Leicester.

The Panoramic Camera will be the eyes of the rover. It will help guide the rover and be used by geologists to understand the history and structure of Mars. This will help choose the best locations to use the drill to acquire samples. Led by planetary scientist Professor Andrew Coates from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory of the University College London, it also involves robotics expert Professor Dave Barnes at the University of Aberystwyth.

The Raman Laser Spectrometer uses a very sensitive technique called Raman spectroscopy to diagnose the internal structure of molecules so that scientists can understand what sort of minerals and organic compounds the rover is studying. The UK team is led by Dr Ian Hutchinson from Leicester University, while Professor Howell Edwards of Bradford University is the Science Team Coordinator. The Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Harwell, Oxfordshire is also a major contributor to this programme, which is led by Spain.

The X-Ray Diffractometer will study the structure of minerals already known to exist on Mars such as clays, carbonates and sulphates and also determine whether these have been subjected to alteration processes by water and have the potential to harbour life. Dr Ian Hutchinson and Dr Richard Ambrosi of Leicester University have an important role in the development of the detector array for this instrument and Dr Hutchinson is the Deputy Principal Investigator for the instrument, which is led by Italy.

Notes for editors

Breakdown of funding:
Life Marker Chip - £4.8M
Panoramic Camera- £2.7M
X-Ray Diffractometer - £1.1M
Raman Laser Spectrometer - £1.9M


Guest : Historic space deal between UK and Russia

Dr David Williams, Chief Executive of UK Space Agency and Deputy Head of Roscosmos, Mr Vitaly Davidov
Credit: UK Space Agency (Lynn Hilton)

Today (Wednesday 21 July 2010), the UK has concluded an historic agreement with Russia leading the way to greater collaboration in space between the two nations. In signing the agreement, UK Space Agency’s Chief Executive, Dr David Williams said it marked a new stage in cooperation between the UK and Russia in civil space activity. “Space provides governments with the possibility to improve lives across their communities, along with offering novel commercial opportunities,” said Dr Williams. “It is a truly global activity and one where it is right that we should work together”.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the UK Space Agency and the Russian Federal Space Bureau was concluded at the Farnborough Airshow on July 21st. Head of the Russian Federal Space Agency Anatoly N. Perminov signed for Russia.

In his message delivered to the UK counterparts Mr. Perminov pointed out that the Memorandum of Understanding highlights the new step in relations between the UK Space Agency and Roscosmos. “To explore and benefit from space at most we need to cooperate with each other”, noted Anatoly N. Perminov. “And that is the very essence of our agreement. I’m sure that the future of space exploration can be guaranteed only by international cooperation”.


Guest : UK and India seeking cooperation on science and technology
The UK and India are planning to enhance cooperation in science and technology and explore possibilities for collaboration in the space sector. The plans were unveiled in the southern Indian cities of Bangalore and Chennai earlier this week (Wednesday 28th July).

As part of a UK delegation on a two-day visit to India, Universities and Science Minister David Willetts held discussions with India’s Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chavan on further strengthening cooperation in science and research.

Emerging from a meeting, Willets told reporters that he also held discussions with Chavan on cooperation in the space and nuclear research sectors.

During the meetings, Willets pointed out that India has developed expertise in launching small satellites and that Britain was in the process of developing satellites.

The two countries have also decided to work together on a new initiative to encourage multi-disciplinary research partnerships to develop the next generation of environmentally friendly fuel cell technologies.

Willets was in India as part of a Government delegation promoting trade and business links between the UK and India. The delegation was led by the Prime Minister.

Page last updated: 30 July 2010 by the UK Space Agency


EarthlingX":2y3audkz said:
nimbus":2y3audkz said:
It'd be cool if they funded Skylon into reality. They'd go from nothing to top of the game.
Esa is funding it, under different name. Same UK company, (Wiki) Reaction Engines Limited, different name for ESA Project :

ESA : Long-Term Advanced Propulsion Concepts and Technologies - LAPCAT

There also LAPCAT II, and it looks as if it is till running :

ESA : LAPCAT II overview

We'll see, i hope.
LAPCAT is a Hypersonic jet, SKYLON is the orbital launcher.


annodomini2 ":2aay7njd said:
LAPCAT is a Hypersonic jet, SKYLON is the orbital launcher.
Yes, it seems i was a bit off ..

Wiki : Reaction Engines Skylon
In aerospace, Skylon is a design by Reaction Engines Limited for an unpiloted, airbreathing single-stage to orbit, combined cycle jet engine based spaceplane.
LAPCAT (Long-Term Advanced Propulsion Concepts and Technologies) was a 36 month European FP6 study to examine ways to produce engines for a Mach 4-8 Hypersonic aircraft.
Similarity here is my excuse :

Wiki : Reaction Engines A2
The Reaction Engines Limited A2 (called the A2) is a design study for a hypersonic airliner.


Well yes, the A2 is REL's submission to the EU-funded LAPCAT programme.

But to be honest you're off the hook anyway as the principle design philosophy of Skylon is that it is a vehicle barely distinguishable from a hypersonic jet, hence why they look so similar. A large part of the research into the A2 airframe and the Scimitar engines will be of use to informing the design of Skylon.

ESA is however contributing to the funding of Skylon, or rather the crucial engine development phase, ... nding.html
Skylon spaceplane engine technology gets European funding

A £6 million ($8.5 million) air-breathing rocket engine technology demonstration programme has been announced after the European Space Agency contributed €1 million ($1.25 million) to it.
And an update on REL's progress, ... rnborough/
UK Skylon spaceplane set for engine test in '3-4 years'

The British firm aiming to build an enhanced "Skylon" space shuttle which would take off from a runway without external tank or boosters, says it expects to test its revolutionary "SABRE" rocket/jet engine within "three to four years".


Guest : Space in pictures - UK Space Agency now on Flickr
The UK Space Agency has recently set up a Flickr account to keep you updated on some of the things we’ve been involved in.

The two sets of pictures currently on the site are of the Agency launch event and the Agency’s attendance at the Farnborough International Airshow 2010.

Please keep checking for photo updates on the Agency – we will let you know when we have more images.


Other social media


Page last updated: 09 August 2010 by the UK Space Agency


Guest : UK Space Agency evidence published online
The Science and Technology Committee has today published online the oral evidence it took last week in a session on the UK Space Agency.

Commenting on the session Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“Members of the Committee found the session very useful and valuable. We are not at this stage producing a report but the Committee will follow the progress of the Agency, watch the concerns raised by the wider community, and track the financial resources provided to it by the Comprehensive Spending Review. The committee is agreed on the importance of space both to the UK economy but also the potential it has for encouraging young people to seek careers in science and engineering. I expect that that the Agency and space is a subject that the Committee may return to later in this Parliament.”

For more information please visit the Parliament UK website.

Page last updated: 16 September 2010 by the UK Space : Image of the week - Orange for Lemons – irrigation in South Africa

UK-DMC-2 image of the Orange River in South Africa
Credit: 2009 DMCii

At 2200 kilometres, the Orange River is the longest river in South Africa. Rising in the Drakensberg mountains, it flows west all the way through to the Atlantic Ocean, freezing during wintertime at Lesotho due to the altitude there.

The Orange River also plays a vital part in the economy of South Africa. In the picture we can see signs of irrigation (the large false-coloured discs) east of the Vanderkloof Dam, constructed to help provide very good agricultural soil in an arid land and now used by citrus fruit farmers. The river is also used to provide hydroelectric power.

UK-DMC-2 and its five siblings in the Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) of satellites are able to provide daily imaging of environmental events around the world. The DMC satellites use specially designed Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) imaging payloads to image the Earth at resolutions between 2.5m and 32m. The first satellite in the series, UK-DMC, was jointly funded by the UK Space Agency (formerly known as BNSC) and SSTL through the £15M MOSAIC programme. Subsequently, eight more satellites have been developed on a fully commercial basis.
Page last updated: 15 September 2010 by the UK Space Agency


Guest : Testing Times for LISA Pathfinder
Page last updated: 29 September 2010

by the UK Space Agency

LISA Pathfinder spacecraft going through magnetic testing
Credit: EADS Astrium

The LISA Pathfinder spacecraft has spent the summer being subjected to a battery of tests in Germany.

Magnetic testing was carried out at the IABG facility near Munich. This is a specialised building built away from industrial areas, railways and power lines in which the natural magnetic field of the Earth can be accurately damped, and allow the spacecraft's own field to be assessed. The aim of the test was to measure field levels within the central section of the spacecraft where its payload will be housed, allowing model predictions to be validated.

Also in Munich, the combined Science Module and Propulsion Module underwent thermal testing in a large solar simulation chamber. Temperatures were driven to their maximum predicted hot and cold levels, while changing sun angles and eclipses were simulated by rotating the spacecraft in the chamber. The testing also allowed an early check out of the thermal subsystem on the science module itself, ahead of tests planned to simulate its on-station performance in 2011. The post test analysis of the results have verified the thermal subsystems for both modules and completed the formal qualification of the propulsion module.

LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) Pathfinder is designed to test technologies for the future LISA mission. The aim of the LISA mission will be to detect gravitational waves in space, opening up a completely new 'view' of the Universe.

Gravitational waves are ripples in space and time. They were predicted by Einstein's 1916 Theory of General Relativity and are thought to be generated by some of the most violent astrophysical events - such as exploding stars and collisions of black holes at the centres of galaxies.

The UK's involvement in LISA Pathfinder is funded by the UK Space Agency and UK scientists from the University of Birmingham, the University of Glasgow and Imperial College London are collaborating on LTP.

EADS Astrium Limited is the spacecraft's main contractor and SciSys Limited is the software architect.


Guest : Gaia's Mechanical Service Module leaves Stevenage
Page last updated: 29 September 2010

by the UK Space Agency

GAIA Spacecraft at Astrium
Credit: EADS Astrium

A significant milestone was reached this summer on the Gaia programme, with Astrium Stevenage completing work on the Mechanical Service Module. Once in space, the Service Module will control the functioning of the entire spacecraft. At this stage it consists of a mechanical structure, built in Spain, integrated in Stevenage with its electrical harness and its two propulsion systems - one a chemical system and the other a cold gas micro-propulsion system. The micro-propulsion feed module was manufactured at Astrium's Portsmouth factory.

The first stage in the service module's journey after leaving Stevenage was to a facility at Westcott, where the micro-propulsion system was pressure tested. It then travelled to Toulouse where its electronic equipment will be installed before the Payload Module is integrated and tested.

The European Space Agency's Gaia mission will examine the Milky Way in unprecedented 3-D detail, surveying more than one billion stars to make the largest, most precise map of our Galaxy to date.

Gaia is one of the most important current space projects for the UK, which has won about €80M of contracts from ESA (European Space Agency) to build the spacecraft.


Guest : Video interview – Dr David Williams – head of UK Space Agency
Added on 24 September 2010

by Tim Robinson

On 16 September Dr David Williams, acting Chief Executive, UK Space Agency & Chairman of the ESA Council gave the Space Group Evening Lecture at the Royal Aeronautical Society.

We caught up with Dr Williams to ask him about progress with the UK Space Agency, co-operation with Europe and the US, human spaceflight, and inspiring the next generation of British engineers, scientists and astronauts.
AeroSocietyChannel | September 23, 2010


Guest : UK Space Agency kicks off CubeSat pilot programme
Page last updated: 10 November 2010

by the UK Space Agency

The UK Space Agency has today (Wednesday 10th November) opened the payload competition for its United Kingdom Universal Bus Experiment (UKube1) - a one year pilot mission in which the UK will launch a miniature satellite that will carry up to 3 different payloads into space, testing new technologies and carrying out new space research quickly and efficiently.

UKube1 is an exciting and novel collaboration between the UK Space Agency, industry and academia, and is envisaged as the pilot for a full national CubeSat programme. The low cost, largely off-the-shelf nature and rapid turnaround of CubeSat missions means that they can be used to drive the development of innovative technologies and to promote economic growth. Only this week, The UK Space Agency announced that the UK space industry has grown by about 10% a year through the recession to reach an annual turnover of £7.5B.

Dr David Williams, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said, “UKube1 will allow us to test the suitability of a CubeSat programme for fast-tracking some of the UK’s new and cutting-edge space technology and performing unique science at a relatively low cost. We’re looking forward to receiving the innovative payload proposals that our skilled UK scientists and engineers will suggest.”

The funding partners for UKube1 are the UK Space Agency, TSB and STFC. The spacecraft is being developed through an existing Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with innovative Scottish space company Clyde Space and the University of Strathclyde. The platform development is supported through internal funding from ClydeSpace and STFC sponsorship of the KTP. The UK’s largest space company, EADS Astrium Ltd, is providing engineering and programme management support to the Agency for the programme.
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