£15m investment in UK space agency satellite communications

Science Minister Nusrat Ghani has unveiled a new £15million fund for UK businesses to revolutionize satellite communications technology.

The competition, which runs until next spring, is open to organizations developing ambitious technologies in the satellite communications ecosystem. It will put customer needs first, support sustainable growth and catalyze new investment in the UK space sector, which already employs 47,000 people.

Ideas can focus on creating new constellations of satellites, ground systems or providing new services to customers, and will be funded by the UK Space Agency’s leading role in the Advanced Research on the telecommunications services (ARTES) of the European Space Agency (ESA).

The new funding comes as the science minister travels to Rome, Italy on her first overseas space visit to meet ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.

The meeting comes ahead of the ESA Council of Ministers (CMIN22) next month, where the UK and other member states will negotiate their future contributions to ESA for priority space projects and missions.

Science Minister Nusrat Ghani said:

I am proud to represent the UK space sector as we discuss our ambitions ahead of the ESA Council of Ministers next month. There are a range of important programs on the table and I want to harness the opportunities in space to grow the UK economy, create jobs and inspire young people into STEM careers.

We are also making new funding available to strengthen the UK’s position as a world leader in the satellite communications market, and I look forward to seeing the results of the competition.

The £15million fund comes as a new report shows that every £1 invested in the ESA generates an overall return of £11.80 for the UK economy.

The impact assessment of UK investment in the European Space Agency also shows that the UK is among the top three countries in terms of science output, along with the US and Germany. It is a measure of the rate of publication for every pound invested among the main space countries.

The UK’s role in ESA is an important part of delivering the government’s ambitious National Space Strategy. The UK committed £374 million a year over five years to ESA in 2019 and this report looks at the impact of that investment in 2020 and 2021.

The ARTES program is one of the UK Space Agency’s main commercial drivers for the growth of the UK space sector and includes projects such as Eurostar Neo. The UK’s participation, which is expected to bring a 20:1 return on investment, will see new geostationary satellites developed by UK-based Airbus launched into space to provide better broadcast, internet and communication around the world.

Dr Paul Bate, Director General of the UK Space Agency, said:

Our membership of ESA brings huge benefits to the UK, catalysing investment in the sector, supporting innovative businesses and providing access to new missions and capabilities such as the James Webb Space Telescope.

As a founding member of ESA, UK space organizations benefit from access to world-class facilities in the UK and Europe, the expertise of ESA’s 3,000 staff and close links with the international space community at large, including other space agencies such as NASA.

This new report demonstrates how our participation in ESA translates into concrete results for the UK economy and continues to play an important role in delivering our national space ambitions.

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