TOP 10 UK Space Companies Dealing in Tech & Satellites8th Mar 2022
Today, the space industry is one of the top priority sectors of the British economy and many UK space companies are willing to contribute their share to this up-and-coming industry. In the next decade, the National Space Strategy envisages doubling the UK’s presence in the global space market from 5% to 10%. This ambitious goal has united all space sector players, from foreign affiliates like Deimos Space UK to 100% local businesses. We will discuss space companies UK can justly be proud of. Here goes the list of 10 Space Tech & Satellites Companies at the forefront of UK space innovations.
Top Ten UK Space Companies Innovating the Industry
10. Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL)
Surrey is one of the oldest space companies in UK. The manufacturer and operator of optical and SAR smallsats was established at the University of Surrey in Guildford, England, in 1985. Since 2008, it has been a member of Airbus Defense and Space.
In 2009, Surrey ranked 89 (out of 997 space technology companies UK has) in the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies. Over the past three decades, it has launched more than 70 satellites.
The most famous SSTL constellations:
- Radio satellites UOSat;
- Earth Observation Satellites – DMC, RapidEye, Carbonite.
In 2020, the company began building a telecommunications spacecraft for lunar missions. It will be completed in 2024 and will be used to transmit data to Earth.
9. Clyde Space Ltd
Clyde is one of the relatively new space startups in the UK space industry. The company specialises in the production of advanced nanosatellites, reliable subsystems and related services. Clyde Space was founded in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2005. As one of the leading UK private space companies, it is also recognized as the world’s leading innovator and supplier of CubeSat and small satellite systems.
The company produces an average of 6 CubeSats monthly, supporting 30 to 40% of all current and past CubeSats missions. It was Clyde Space Ltd that created Britain’s first Ukube 1 CubeSat, launched in 2014.
As one of the top UK based space companies, Clyde Space offers:
- CubeSat subsystems of 4 types — EPIC 12U, EPIC 6U, EPIC 3U,EPIC 1U.
- Satellite bits — solar arrays, structure, electrical power systems, batteries, command and data handling, communications.
- Space as a service – providing a full package of services from the production of CubeSat to its delivery into space.
In 2017, Clyde Space was taken over by the Swedish manufacturer of spacecraft, microelectronics and subsystems AAC Microtec. The £26-million merger strengthened the company’s position in the market.
Space companies in London are also impressive. The communications company, formerly known as WorldVu, was founded in the UK in 2012. It plans to launch and operate a constellation of 648 satellites in orbit to provide affordable Internet access in remote areas where it is not available right now.
OneWeb system will seamlessly integrate with existing networks of mobile and Internet service providers, enabling one of the top space companies in London to effectively expand in these areas.
The company is headquartered in London and rents 6,000 feet of office space in Virginia. In 2020, OneWeb filed for bankruptcy due to a lack of funding amid the pandemic. However, the business was saved thanks to a $1-billion investment of the UK government and Indian company, Bharti Global.
To date, one of the top space companies in London has already deployed half of its planned satellites. These are satellites weighing about 150kg, which are usually placed in LEO. After the entire network is launched, the system will provide data transfer at 10 terabits per second using Wi-Fi, 4G, 3G, and 2G technologies.
The company, founded in 2015 in Guildford, Surrey, provides near real-time Earth Observation satellite data combined with expertise and analytics.
Similar to Deimos Space UK, Earth-I has an extensive partner ecosystem. Its solutions are applied in many areas such as agriculture, mining, ecology and natural disasters, defence and intelligence, urban construction, marine monitoring, mapping and energy.
One of the best space companies the UK is justly proud of uses optical satellite imagery from the DMC3 / TripleSat, CompSat, SuperVeiw, and Vivid-i constellations. Vivid-i Constellation is the world’s first commercial satellite constellation to provide both full colour images and video.
These satellites can capture still images of the Earth at a resolution of 60cm or full-colour video images at a resolution of 1m from an orbit of 500km. The Vivid-I satellites, manufactured by SSTL for Earth-i, are an enhanced version of the SSTL Carbonite satellites.
In 2022, one of the best space companies in the UK plans to complete the Vivid-i constellation deployment, increasing the number of satellites in orbit to 20.
Founded in 2002 as an affiliation of the University of Dundee’s Space Technology Center, STAR-Dundee is now one of the best space startups the UK can be proud of. It is the world leader in SpaceWire and SpaceFibre technology — the international standards for onboard spacecraft networking.
SpaceWire operates in full-duplex mode and has up to 400 Mbps bandwidth. SpaceFibre is a multidisciplinary gigabit data rate standard for multispectral sensors and synthetic aperture radars that complements SpaceWire technology with fibre optic cables.
STAR-Dundee has a global network of distributors and representatives; its products are widely used in spacecraft by NASA, the European Space Agency, Japanese JAXA, as well as research organisations and space industry enterprises around the world. So, it holds a prominent place among UK private space companies.
5. Oxford Space Systems
Founded in 2013, the Harwell, Oxfordshire-based is one of those UK-based space companies developing a new generation of deployable antennas and panels, as well as spacecraft boom systems.
Innovative OSS technologies are based on patented flexible composite materials and an innovative approach to engineering design inspired by origami.
OSS is one of the leading space technology companies the UK is proud of because products are the future of satellites. They are more lightweight, ensure high RF performance, have a significantly improved stacking performance, and are resistant to harsh in-orbit environments.
In 2015, one of the best space companies in the UK set two industry records by successfully deploying the longest telescopic (1.5 m) AstroTube boom for the UK Space Agency’s AlSat Nano CubeSat mission. Besides, it took only 30 months to fully implement the project from scratch.
This efficiency allowed one of the top UK private space companies to secure contracts with ESA, Airbus Defense & Space, Clyde Space, Thales Alenia Space, SSTL, and other customers from Asia and the United States.
4. Open Cosmos
Another company from Harwell, Oxfordshire, is an ESA Business Incubation Center (ESA BIC) startup founded in 2015. It offers simple and accessible space missions to companies from various industries. One of the best UK-based space companies removes three major barriers to accessing space: time-consuming documents, expensive technology, and general costs.
The company helps customers define their mission, design, assemble and test a satellite, as well as launch and operate it in orbit, making OpenCosmos one of those space companies the UK can be justly proud of.
OpenCosmos completed its first project in only 4 months. This is exactly how much it took to develop, deliver, launch and deploy the Qbee 1 nanosatellite.
Today Open Cosmos offers three turnkey solutions for international customers: 3u, 6u, 12u CubeSat platforms with one- or two-year basic service plans starting at £500,000.
The Edinburgh-based aerospace company has only been around since 2017 but has already made the list of British space technology companies. It builds suborbital and orbital ultralight rockets with a low launch cost and minimal environmental impact. Skyrora also develops a spacecraft to remove space debris.
To date, Skyrora’s assets include 4 suborbital Skylark rockets for scientific and educational purposes; one, two- and three-stage orbital Skyrora XL rocket with a payload of 315 kg; and a Space Tug – spacecraft based on the Skyrora XL upper stage designed to service satellites in orbit and removal of retired vehicles.
The first launch of Skyrora XL is planned for 2022 and could become a major breakthrough for the UK because this launch will be the second in the country’s history since the Black Arrow in 1972 and the first one from home soil. In October 2021, Skyrora signed a 10-year launch contract with SaxaVord Spaceport in Shetland, Unst, and plans to launch 16 rockets a year by 2030. When this happens, it should definitely secure more clients that do not have its own launchers, perhaps even Deimos Space UK.
2. Orbex Space
Forres-based company Moonspike Ltd was founded in 2015 and was first planning to raise funds for a private spacecraft mission to the moon. A year later, it rebranded as Orbital Express Launch Ltd and shifted its focus to offering commercial nano- and micro-satellite launch services.
To this end, one of the space startups the UK is talking about develops a lightweight Prime rocket with a payload capacity of 150kg.
The carrier will have a reusable first stage and will be powered by a non-toxic liquid oxygen/propane bicomponent fuel that does not freeze at low temperatures. In addition, Orbex Space claims that its rockets will be 90% less toxic than launchers powered by fossil fuel.
The first Prime launch is expected in late 2022. It should carry a payload for Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. The company will exclusively launch from Sutherland Spaceport.
1. Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station
One of the largest and oldest satellite ground stations in the world is located in Cornwall on the Lizard Peninsula. Its first satellite dish, Arthur, was built in 1962 to receive the US’s first transatlantic live TV broadcasts.
Today Goonhilly Earth Station has over 60 communications antennas, 25 of which support the UK’s core satellite communications segment. And Arthur now hosts technical tours that allow visitors to look at the antenna’s internal structure and climb onto its peak.
Goonhilly antennas are directed to all continents and broadcast millions of international phone calls, emails, and TV shows every day. The station is powered by the national grid and is equipped with large diesel generators to provide unlimited backup power in case of a power outage.
Goonhilly Station’s partners include three space agencies – UKSA, ESA, and the Australian Space Agency, 11 universities, 4 trade associations, and more than 15 commercial companies, including such reputable businesses as QinetiQ, Hewlett Packard, NVidia, BAE Systems, and SSTL.
Goonhilly is regularly upgraded to support private, government, and scientific missions, including INTEGRAL, Mars Express, and Gaia ESA, as well as the commercial moon mission Lunar Pathfinder. A joint project with ESA and SSTL presupposes the creation of a lander that will relay communications with the main ship.
Without a doubt, the global space industry has changed a lot over the past 10 years. Its development has accelerated significantly, and the requirements for all participants have become higher. The competition keeps growing, so anyone willing to become and stay a leader should track the latest trends, respond to requests instantly, and interact with other players, both inside and outside the cluster. Great achievements require teamwork, especially in the space sector, and the UK space companies keep collaborating to achieve common goals.