UK Space Agency Allocates Funds in Space Sustainability Efforts

By neub9
3 Min Read
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The Satellite Applications Catapult’s In-Orbit Servicing and Manufacturing (IOSM) facility at the Westcott Space Cluster in Aylesbury is receiving a £2 million upgrade. This facility will provide unique capabilities in the UK, allowing companies to verify, validate, and demonstrate a range of in-orbit operations including manufacturing, servicing, inspection, repair, and assembly.

An additional £1.5 million is being invested in feasibility studies on refuelling satellites in space to extend their life and reduce the amount of space debris.

The growing amount of space debris in orbit is a global concern, with approximately 37,000 pieces measuring more than 10cm and an estimated one million pieces sized 1-10cm. With increasing numbers of satellites being launched, the UK is taking leadership on this global issue.

Andrew Griffith MP, Minister for Space at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, stated, “Tackling space debris and maintaining ease of navigation in space is vital to allowing future exploration and protecting the everyday services we all rely on, from location and financial services to weather forecasting and broadband.”

“To ensure long-term sustainability, we are funding new technologies for satellite refuelling and upgrading this important national facility at Westcott to help bring innovations to market faster, in turn growing our economy.”

The UK’s IOSM facility is set to become the first in the UK capable of verification, validation, and demonstration of in-orbit operations.

The upgrade will support the growing IOSM sector within the UK, providing access to the large-scale equipment needed to replicate orbital conditions and flight dynamics. This includes expanding the core capabilities to enable dynamic tracking, real-time positioning, a gravity off-load system, and enhancing the orbital simulation environment. The in-orbit simulation robots will benefit from increased digital twin capabilities, acting as a proxy for the space environment and enabling testing in the virtual world.

Lucy Edge, Chief Operating Officer at Satellite Applications Catapult, said, “IOSM is predicted to be worth £11 billion globally by 2031, and the UK has the expertise to capture at least 25% of this market. To achieve that, it’s critical that the UK’s IOSM companies have access to infrastructure to test their technologies and operations under mission conditions. Our new upgraded facility offers exceptional IOSM testing capabilities and supports the Catapult’s goals to grow the entire space industry in the UK.”

Satellite life extension through refuelling

Three new refuelling feasibility studies will support the UK’s efforts to lead on space sustainability by demonstrating the ability to refuel the UK national debris removal mission and explore opportunities for refuelling a commercial satellite.

Ray Fielding, Head of Space Sustainability at the UK Space Agency,, said, “Facilities like the IOSM centre at Westcott will support the UK’s ambition to become a leading nation in IOSM within the next decade.”

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