UK Space Agency To Fund Earth Monitoring Technology

8th Aug 2023
UK Space Agency To Fund Earth Monitoring Technology

The UK Space Agency (UKSA) has announced £15 million of funding is now available for the development of “satellite Earth Observation technology”. Funding will be split between a range of projects falling under three criteria called Pathfinder, Fast Track, and Flagship. UKSA said this funding is: “aimed at supporting a range of environmental services, which could include meteorology, climate monitoring, environmental management, agriculture and urban planning, and improving scientific knowledge.”

According to a UKSA statement, the UK is a leader in Earth Observation (EO) technologies. Therefore, the British space agency said funding: “will help to accelerate the development of promising UK EO technologies,” with the aim to fly them on satellites in coming years. 

Minister of State at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, George Freeman, said: “this £15m investment will boost our economy and drive forward our ambition to make the UK a science superpower.”

Breaking Down The Funding

To combat climate change and monitor the Earth’s sustainability efforts, EO satellites have become more prominent, especially ones developed in the UK. Therefore, UKSA’s £15 million injection will continue to cover a range of projects. This includes £75,000 towards Pathfinder projects and £250,000 towards Fast Track projects. Both sections will: “support new and innovative ideas for technology development, including early-stage research and lab-based experimental hardware.” 

Lastly, Flagship projects will receive upwards of £3 million. These projects will develop key technology that will include testing in pertinent environments such as in vacuum chambers and airborne demonstrations. The total £15 million is a part of a £400 million package which is tailored towards supporting the UK’s ambitions in EO technology. 

Funding Earth Observation Technology

RAL Space’s, UKSA backed, Laser Heterodyne Radiometer. Source: RAL Space

EO technology has been a UK priority for some time. As such, the National Space Strategy in Action report outlines how the UK plans to develop EO technology with support from commercial and public services. Announced at the first meeting of the recently resurrected National Space Council, the plan accounts for how: “Earth Observation technology is critical to tackling the fundamental challenges of our age,” Mr Freeman said. 

Since 2016, UKSA has provided £20 million to 57 EO projects. This includes supporting a Next Generation Synthetic Aperture Radar for the National Oceanography Centre in conjunction with Airbus. The University of Oxford also received funding for their Compact Infrared Imager and Radiometer. Another project that received an injection was RAL Space’s Laser Heterodyne Radiometer. UKSA said these projects have now progressed on their: “roadmaps towards flight on commercial, societal and research space missions.”

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