Sending Brits To Space: UKSA Request Proposals For Axiom Mission

25th Feb 2024
Sending Brits To Space: UKSA Request Proposals For Axiom Mission

Through a £15 million grant, the UK Space Agency (UKSA) has put out a call to the commercial space sector for a prospective Axiom Space mission. They are after two proposals: one for a science demonstrator; the other, a technology demonstrator. Although UKSA are currently at the ideation phase, the call is to prepare for potentially transporting four British astronauts to space. 

The chosen commercial organisation will support a joint partnership between Axiom Space and UKSA. Should the mission go ahead, that is. The European Space Agency has also endorsed the mission. However, a time-line for when UKSA will announce the adoption of the pending plans is unclear. 

Andrew Griffith, Minister for Space at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, commented: “There is huge potential for UK businesses to play an increasingly important role in space exploration and the development of new technologies. The £15 million funding calls mark a significant stride in our collaborative mission with Axiom Space.” 

The Mission & Collaboration With Axiom Space

Currently, there is no definitive destination for the astronauts, but UKSA said it could lead to a mission to the International Space Station. However, there is a caveat: the mission needs to go ahead before funding can be released. Nonetheless, UKSA said they are aiming to back British “scientists, innovators, and businesses [with] the opportunity to submit proposals now to maximise the benefits of a mission in the near term” . 

UKSA’s agenda is to use their Memorandum of Understanding with Axiom Space to pursue a commercially-backed mission. The MoU was signed in October 2023, and plans appear to be finally materialising. But ultimately, the foundations of the astronaut mission require demonstrator proposals from commercial space companies. Minister Griffith continued: “I urge the UK science and technology community to use this opportunity to drive forward discovery and unleash innovation in critical technologies.”  

Proposal 1: Science Experiments 

UKSA’s first proposal call is for science. They are exploring options where they can back British scientists researching microgravity and “the space environment”. Although propositions can come from any area of research, UKSA are strongly encouraging scientists to put forward proposals that underpin two key areas. Those being, the National Space Strategy and the UK’s Science and Technology Framework. UKSA are also asking for ideas that align with the priorities defined by the UK Research and Innovation body.

Proposal 2: Technology Demonstrators

Under the technology aspect of the call-out, UKSA are targeting “the UK’s exploration sector”. As such, UKSA have affirmed that proposals will aspire to test key in-space technologies developed under the partnership. Such technologies that will attract UKSA’s attention include those that champion the National Space Capability Goals. 

Other areas of interest surround the five technologies outlined in the UK Space and Technology Framework. Those being: “artificial intelligence; engineering biology; future telecommunications; semiconductors; and quantum technologies.” Finally, ideas put forward may also support UKSA’s Space Exploration Technology Roadmap. Chiefly, they should envelop: “advanced manufacturing, in-situ resource utilisation, life support and crew performance,” UKSA concluded. 

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