Government Backs UK Companies Tackling Dangerous Space Junk

Distribution of space debris around Earth (Credit: ESA)

Seven UK companies have been awarded a share of over £1 million [$1.3 million] to help track debris in space

  • Currently there are approximately 160 million objects in orbit – mainly debris – which could collide with satellites vital to services we use every day
  • UK Space Agency and Ministry of Defence sign formal agreement to work together on monitoring threats and hazards in orbit

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) –Seven pioneering projects which will develop new sensor technology or artificial intelligence to monitor hazardous space debris, have been announced today by the UK Space Agency.

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Reaction Engines and Rolls-Royce Announce New Strategic Partnership Agreement

Credit: Reaction Engines

ABINGTON, UK (Reaction Engines/Rolls-Royce PR) — Reaction Engines Ltd and Rolls-Royce plc today announced a new strategic partnership agreement to develop high-speed aircraft propulsion systems and explore applications for Reaction Engines’ thermal management technology within civil and defence aerospace gas turbine engines and hybrid-electric systems.

“We have been working closely with Reaction Engines for the past two years, including exploring the potential of high-Mach systems for defence applications, and I am delighted that we are able to strengthen that relationship,” said Mark Thompson, Director of Global Strategy & Business Development, Rolls-Royce. “This partnership follows our recent announcements with Boom Supersonic and Virgin Galactic.”

“Reaction Engines’ thermal management skills, added to our suite of existing technologies and capabilities, will further assist us as we explore opportunities in supersonic and hypersonic aviation,” Thompson added. “Building on our many decades of innovation, we will also explore the use of Reaction Engines’ technology within our aerospace gas turbines and its potential application in future hybrid-electric propulsion systems, as we look to make flying ever more efficient and sustainable.”

Additionally, Rolls-Royce is making a further investment in Reaction Engines as part of a wider funding round. The two companies have been working together since 2018, including on the first phase of a UK Ministry of Defence contract to undertake design studies, research, development, analysis and experimentation related to high-Mach advanced propulsion systems.

“This strategic partnership is about developing market ready applications for Reaction Engines’ technology in next generation engines and is a significant step forward for our technology commercialisation plans,” said Mark Thomas, Chief Executive of Reaction Engines. “Our proprietary heat exchanger technology delivers incredible heat transfer capabilities at extremely low weight and a compact size. We look forward to expanding our international collaboration with Rolls-Royce, a global leader in power systems, to bring to market a range of applications that will transform the performance and efficiency of aircraft engines, enable high speed – supersonic and hypersonic – flight and support the drive towards more sustainable aviation through innovative new technologies.” 

Coalition Partners, U.S. and UK, Agree to Share Technical Foundation for Space Operations

WASHINGTON, (AFNS) — The U.S. Space Force reached an important milestone by recently signing an agreement to allow sharing of the Standardized Astrodynamics Algorithm Library with the Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The U.K. was the first international partner to join U.S. Space Command’s Operation OLYMPIC DEFENDER and is the first to receive access to the SAAL, though USSF is currently working with other partner nations to expand that list. 

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UKspace, RAF to Establish Commercial Integration Cell for Greater Military & Commercial Space Collaboration

BORDON, UK (UKspace PR) — UKspace is working in partnership with the Royal Air Force (RAF) to develop a new Commercial Integration Cell (CIC) at the UK Space Operations Centre (SpOC), which will enable enhanced coordination of military and commercial space operations.

This partnership will establish a CIC in the UK similar to that currently operated by the US Space Force at the Combined Space Operations Centre in Vandenburg, further improving interoperability between the allied nations in support of Operation OLYMPIC DEFENDER and national operations.

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UK, US Militaries Launch £800,000 International Space Pitch Day

LONDON, 22 July 2020 (UK Government PR) — Start-up tech companies and inventors will get the chance to pitch directly to UK and US military leaders for the $1-million investment to fast-track their ideas for cutting-edge Space innovations.

International Space Pitch Day was launched today by UK Director Space Air Vice-Marshal Harv Smyth.

International Space Pitch Day is a joint UK-US initiative that aims to find, fund and fast-track innovation and technology that gives advantage to military personnel and operations in the space domain.

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Airbus Signs Contract with UK Ministry of Defence for Skynet 6A Satellite

STEVENAGE, UK, July 19, 2020 (Airbus PR) — Airbus Defence and Space has signed a contract with the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) to extend and enhance the Skynet fleet. This will involve the development, manufacture, cyber protection, assembly, integration, test and launch, of a military communications satellite, Skynet 6A, planned for launch in 2025.

The contract also covers technology development programmes, new secure telemetry, tracking and command systems, launch, in-orbit testing and ground segment updates to the current Skynet 5 system. The value of the contract is more than £500 million.

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Ground Control to Faraday-1: DSTL to Operate First Space Mission

Faraday-1 satellite (Credit: DSTL)

LONDON (DSTL PR) — The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s (DSTL) new satellite control ground station will support its first space mission following the launch of the Faraday-1 satellite. This mission will contribute towards international research collaborations to facilitate satellite operations between nations in support of wider defence science and technology goals in the space domain.

Manufactured by In-Space, Faraday-1 (also known as Prometheus-1 in the MOD community) will be launched from the Rocket Lab’s complex in Mahia, New Zealand, on 3 July, and orbit the Earth for a nominal period of three years to collect commercial data for industry partners.

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RAF Loans Pilot to Virgin Orbit for Satellite Launch Program

Mathew Stannard (Credit: RAF)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (RAF PR) — The Royal Air Force and Virgin Orbit have selected the RAF pilot to be seconded to the company’s ground-breaking small satellite launch programme.

The partnership between the RAF and Virgin Orbit was unveiled at the Air and Space Power conference in July. Following a tough selection process, Air Vice-Marshal Simon ‘Rocky’ Rochelle and Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart have announced that Flight Lieutenant Mathew ‘Stanny’ Stannard had been selected. 

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UK Ministry of Defence Announces £1.5m Boost for Space Innovation

NEWPORT, Wales (UK MOD PR) — Defence Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan has announced a £1.5 million [$1.85 million] investment in 12 ground-breaking space innovation projects.

The announcement marks the next step in the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s (Dstl) ‘Space to Innovate’ competition, which sought to find and fund new technologies that could improve the UK’s resilience, awareness and capability in space.

The competition, run on behalf of Dstl by the Defence and Security Accelerator, the MOD’s innovation hub, received more than 60 bids from innovators around the world.

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Royal Air Force Plans to Loan Pilot to Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl 747 performs its first captive carry of LauncherOne. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

UK Defence Minister Penny Mordaunt announced a plan on Thursday to loan a Royal Air Force test pilot to Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, apparently so the aviator can earn astronaut wings with Virgin Galactic.

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UK Defence Minister Praises Virgin Orbit, Vows to Strengthen Space Capabilities

Penny Mordaunt (Credit: Ministry of Defence)

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt Keynote Speech
Air and Space Power Conference 2019
July 18, 2019
Full Speech

Excerpts About Space

And we should be a leading player in space. It won’t just help strengthen our industries. It’ll also provide an incredible opportunity to capture the imagination of a new generation and encourage them to get involved in aerospace.

Fifty years on from the moon landings we’re seeing SpaceX and other private sector individuals and leaders coming into the sector and making use of the technology. From satellite launches to more ambitious projects. It’s no longer a matter of if, but when, the first humans will walk on Mars. And this year we might see the first routine tourist flights into space.

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