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UK sets up ‘Catapult’ centre to boost space activities

UK: In a bid to promote space activities amongst “UK plc”, the UK Science Minister David Willetts announced that the next ‘Catapult’ technology and innovation centre will be dedicated to developing new space applications. Willetts was addressing think tank of Policy Exchange; an independent, non-partisan educational charity in the UK. He added that the centre in satellite applications is intended to provide businesses with “access to orbit test facilities, to develop and demonstrate new technologies”.
The UK government’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB) is driving the ‘Catapult’ concept, which is a network of world-leading technology and innovation centres. It aims to create a critical mass for business and research innovation by focusing on a specific technology where there is a potentially large global market and a significant UK capability.
The ‘Catapult’ is likely to focus on applications of R&D in four growth areas: communications, broadcasting, positioning and Earth observation. “It will also provide access to advanced systems for data capture and analysis, supporting the development of new services delivered by satellites,” Willetts stressed.
“These could be in a wide range of areas such as distance learning and telemedicine, urban planning, precision agriculture, traffic management and meteorology.”
It is pertinent to mention that the TSB is already developing what is expected to be a series of satellite that will act as the demonstration platforms. TechDemoSat-1 (TDS-1) is the first and should be ready for launch later this year. It incorporates novel hardware and software systems that their designers hope can prove their worth in orbit and go on to win export orders.
TDS-1 payloads include instruments to track ships and monitor the sea surface for freak waves, and even a self-destruct “sail” that will pull the spacecraft out of the sky at the end of its mission.
The TSB envisages a third-third-third funding model in which the money to operate it comes partly from government funding, partly from competitively won institutional contracts, and partly from the private sector.
The government’s contribution will come out of the GBP 200 million that Prime Minister David Cameron announced last October when he initiated the technology and innovation centres programme in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry.
If the satellite ‘Catapult’ follows the model of the cell therapies centre, the public funding is likely to be on the order of about GBP 10 million a year.
The space industry has agreed a path forward with government that aims to boost the sector. Many of the ideas were enshrined in the Space Innovation and Growth Strategy (Space-IGS) published in 2010. This document laid out a path it believed could take the UK from a position where it currently claims 6 percent of the global market in space products and services to 10 percent, by 2030, creating perhaps 100,000 new hi-tech jobs in the process.
Source: BBC