SSTL Talks To OT About £250k Grant to Expand UK’s Space Imaging Capabilities

8th Mar 2024
SSTL Talks To OT About £250k Grant to Expand UK’s Space Imaging Capabilities

Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd has been awarded a £250,000 grant under the ​​UK Space Agency’s Space Clusters Infrastructure Fund (SCIF). Speaking with Orbital Today, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) Director of Business Development Andrew Cawthorne revealed that SSTL intends to use the funds to expand its optical Research and Development Cleanroom Facility, increasing payload capabilities for use in more diverse projects in the future.

“We have very strong optical payload capabilities already, having worked on this for the last 30 years or more,” Cawthorne told OT. “What the SCIF program will do for us is enhance the facilities that we have, to be able to give more of a focus around some of the use of the detector technology being used in the payloads, where we can use them for both commercial and defence projects as well.”

A boost to the UK space imaging technology

Also speaking on the announcement, SSTL Managing Director Philip Brownnett, said the funds will “help address the growing need for space-based imaging equipment for a wide range of commercial, defence and governmental customers.

“This will give a real boost to cutting-edge research into space imaging technology carried out in the UK,” he added.

It comes as Surrey Satellite gears up to see several high-calibre launches in the next 12 months, including the UK Space Command’s first ISR satellite, Tyche, due to launch in the summer.

“We also work with the European Space Agency on a number of their missions, including the lunar pathfinder, our first lunar mission, which will occur next year,” Cawthorne said.

SSTL and finding qualified people

When asked what challenges he sees as critical as a growing UK-based company – and industry – Cawthorne said, “Like many of us in space, one of the main challenges for us is the skills shortage. Specialised knowledge in space is important and its hard to come by.

“It is really hard to get appropriately experienced, qualified people in the game. That pool of people in the UK are spread quite thin.”

Andrew Cawthorne Quote

Cawthorne revealed that the ongoing skills shortage is something that his company, and others “have to factor in” when taking on new projects, or considering investing in new developments and capabilities.

This latest SCIF grant was one of several pledges announced by UK Minister for Science, Research and Innovation Andrew Griffith at the 2024 SpaceComm Expo in Farnborough on Thursday.

Other announcements included a £10 million investment in the SaxVord Spaceport to see the first vertical launch from the UK by mid-year, and the unveiling of the UK government’s new Space Industrial Plan through to 2030.

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