Intergalactic investment: government boosts space tech funding to cut carbon emissions & improve energy security

20 July 2022

SBSP mock-up
SBSP mock-up

Funding for pioneering new space technologies will help to cut carbon emissions, improve energy security & enhance the UK’s reputation as a science superpower, Business & Energy Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng has announced today.

•    £3 million for projects to collect solar power with satellites in the Earth’s orbit

•    Government-backed high power weather sensor (HPWS), four times more powerful than those on existing satellites, to enter orbit for the first time

•    David Morris MP to be new National Space Champion, supporting the industry on behalf of government

£3 million of grant funding will be made available for space-based solar power projects that collect the Sun’s energy using solar panels orbiting the Earth and can deliver clean energy, day and night, unaffected by the weather.

The technology has the potential to boost energy security by providing reliable, affordable alternative to expensive and volatile fossil fuels, while reducing the UK’s contributions to climate change.

Grant funding will also be made available for cutting-edge weather monitoring sensors to aid more accurate weather forecasts. The sensors will be put into orbit for the first time, thanks to a partnership with data and analytics company, Spire Global.

The Hyperspectral Microwave Sounder (HYMS), developed by the Science & Technology Facilities Council’s RAL Space, will help meteorological agencies and businesses around the world involved with planning, shipping and flood warnings. It is four times more powerful than the sensors used on existing satellites.

HYMS pre-prototype
HYMS pre-prototype

In a further demonstration of the government’s commitment to the sector, Morecambe & Lunesdale MP, David Morris will serve as the first-ever National Space Champion. He will work closely with industry to ensure the UK’s space sector continues to grow, attract investment and develop innovative products. Morris is a longstanding advocate for the UK space industry and chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Space.

Business & Energy Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Space-based solar power could provide an affordable, clean and reliable source of energy for the whole world to benefit from, helping the move away from expensive fossil fuels. Today’s investment is an exciting example of how we can go even further in our ambitions to make the UK a science superpower.

I am also delighted that the HYMS technology, developed in Oxfordshire, will be put into service by Spire Global to help improve weather forecasting.

These projects are major milestones for our National Space Strategy, developing the UK’s space capabilities while boosting the economy and delivering high-skill jobs.

National Space Champion, David Morris MP said: “It is a privilege to be asked to be the first UK National Space Champion and the appointment shows the Government’s commitment to the sector and its commitment to its growth.

Kwasi Kwarteng_Tim Peake_David Willetts
Kwasi Kwarteng_Tim Peake_David Willetts

The UK Space sector is fast becoming a world leader and I look forward to being a champion for the industry within Government to ensure we are able to spearhead the industry to even further growth.

An independent report found significant commercial potential in developing SBSP’s underlying technologies as products in their own right – particularly with regards to wireless power transmission and solar power.

Similarly, the HYMS occupies a footprint fifty times smaller than current technology, which makes it possible to launch dozens of HYMS-equipped satellites, together forming a constellation that can track fast moving extreme weather events such as hurricanes.

Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency said: “Satellite technology is helping us solve some of the most significant challenges we face. We’re working with the space sector to drive innovation, catalyse investment and bring tangible benefits to people and businesses across the UK.

As these two new projects show, space is not only vital in helping us monitor the weather and our environment, it can also provide new solutions to our future energy needs and support the global fight against climate change.

The UK space sector employs around 47,000 people directly around the UK and supports around 190,000 jobs in the supply chain. By building on the commitments of the National Space Strategy to grow the economy and lead pioneering scientific discovery, these two projects will help to protect and grow these high-quality jobs across the country for generations to come.

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