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  • Writer's picturePhilip Day

Weekly UK Space News Roundup 20th August 2020

European Space Agency could send Galileo work to UK through

ESA continues to move forward on the Galileo project, a complimentary GNSS system to GLONAS and GPS of Russian and American heritage respectively. Galileo already boasts capable spacecraft, and Phillippe Pham who leads Airbus Defence and Space for Earth Observation, Navigation and Science believes their variant of a second generation spacecraft is much more capable again.

This is a three horse race with two winners to gain equal potions of the forthcoming satellite construction contracts. All Three contractors (OHB, Thales and Airbus) have pedigree in bidding for, and working on Galileo. OHB rose from modest beginnings to dominate the construction of Galileo spacecraft, forcing a powerful consortium of Thales and Airbus to take a back seat. Both companies subsequently worked successfully on a number of related systems including avionics packages and ground systems for Galileo itself.

Now, both Thales and Airbus are back for round 2. It's a bigger spacecraft with more advanced systems that the two defence contractors feel confident they deserve to win. It hasn't been confirmed yet as to where Airbus plans to do the work if they become successful, but with facilities in the UK, it is entirely possible that post-brexit britain could still play a role in a European navigational masterpiece that has already benefited so much from British endeavour.

OHB, now the dominant force in constructing this constellation thus far doesn't plan to miss out, describing Airbus and Thales as having "zero heritage" in the system. Perhaps interestingly, whilst OHB's Chief Strategy & Development Officer postured for strength here, he played down the odds of success, anticipating a greater than 50% chance of becoming one of the two selected companies. At this stage, all forces being equal, each company has two chances out of three to claim victory. This downplay of probabilities probably demonstrates that despite a bit of cheeky track-task, OHB plans to take Airbus and Thales extremely seriously as competitors, and those 66% success statistics are not being as taken for granted as OHB would have us think.

Contracts are due to be signed early in 2021. The field is set, the runners selected. Now there's only one thing for it, in what promises to be an exciting tussle between three impressive and deserving pitches.

Skyrora's Delayed Langanes Launch Takes Flight

Skyrora had a few days of nervous waiting last week, hoping to get Skylark Micro, a 2-stage solid rocket off the ground. The weather in Langanes, Iceland wasn't too friendly to the team, frustrating efforts with upper winds out of limits as you will remember from our report last week.

Monday was the day however, and both rocket stages roared into the sky, eventually reaching just over 88,000FT, or 26.86km, which is well into the stratosphere. We can't quite call this a sub-orbital flight today, but the team has learnt a lot of operational lessons and the data will keep them busy for weeks to come ahead of their even more ambitious Skylark-L and Skylark-XL missions of the future.

Sadly, thus far the team has been unable to locate or recover either of the booster stages at sea, but with tricky tidal forces in the area, pinpointing the GPS co-ordinate of the splash-downs will not necessarily immediately precede recovery. Operations continue in the search.

UK Space Agency award £3.4m in funding for 10 innovative projects

The UK Government, through the UK Space Agency has poured more resources into the UK Space Industry this week, announcing a further £3.4 million split between 10 projects supporting solutions for problems facing global development.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway backed the projects saying:

"These 10 new projects have the potential to provide solutions to the world’s biggest development problems by using the latest and most high-tech space technologies such as satellites, and help improve millions of people’s lives in developing countries."

The University of Nottingham takes pride of place, leading 2 of the 10 projects: an Anti-trafficking system called ASTUS, and a marine environment monitoring system: SASAMS. Other projects are led by universities from across the nation, including The Open University and The University of Reading, whilst others are led directly by business. Assymila, Pixalitics and Fauna & Flora International are among the crop of business leaders from England, whilst Omanos Analytics from Glasgow represents the leadership from business in the North of the nation.

CGC Celtic Space Council Continues Rise from Mysterious Beginnings

Last week we reported on the launch of the CGC Celtic Space Council, representing Welsh, Irish and Isle of Man Space enterprises. Over the past week a little more detail has come to light about the way Council members will seek to support co-operation between UK (and Ireland) businesses to draw strength from the differing specialties to be found in various geographies across the nations. Specifically, the technology sector in Wales is singled out as in need of more opportunity, and the space sector is pinned to provide it.

CGC is privately owned by Black Arrow Technologies, famed for their plan to launch rockets from a fleet of ships, and another company which is newly formed. CGC describes their parner as an avionics company, it might be that we just need to give this software and aviation components company the chance to build some public-facing content.

Rest assured, we'll keep an eye on things for you, because if this becomes a successful campaign, the might of industry in these celtic nations could give the UK's present-day powerhouses of Space a run for their English and Scottish money!

Job of the Week: NORSS seek a Junior Orbital Analyst

Northern Space and Security Limited known as NORSS are looking to supplement their team working with the UK Space Agency and the RAF's Senior Orbital Analysts by adding a junior one of their own! The job is flexible on location until next calendar year, but from them, you'll need to be happy to work from the RAF's command base at High Wycombe. This exciting opportunity is the real deal when it comes to commercial support for UK Space Power. For more information, check out the listing here.

Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn to catch all of the recruiting opportunities that we find particularly exciting here in the UK.

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Thanks for checking in, and until next time remember that every Giant Leap is set up by thousands of small steps.

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