UK Space Minister Announces CubSat Project, Earth Observation Hub


UK Space Minister David Willetts announced a one-year pilot programme to design and launch a CubeSat and the creation of  an Earth Observation Hub in Oxfordshire.

The CubeSat is a shoebox-size satellite that can be fitted with the latest space technology. The compact size of the satellite, which is called UKube1, will allow the UK to test new equipment and carry out research in a relatively cheap way.

There will be a competition for companies and academic groups to come up with the most innovative ideas for UKube1’s payload.

“Britain’s first CubeSat will bring major benefits to the UK space industry. Firms will now have a cheap and quick way to test their latest prototypes,” Mr. Willetts said. “Running a completion to see which experiments will go up with UKube1 is an inventive way to ensure it is fitted with the most creative and innovative payload ideas.”

Earth Observation Hub

The minister also revealed a £4.9m contract has been awarded to build an Earth Observation Hub at the International Space Innovation Centre in Oxfordshire.

The hub will enable the UK to manage spacecraft operations and process the information collected by future space missions.

The contract has gone to a consortium led by Astrium and the hub will be amongst the first in Europe that will actively encourage direct collaboration between government, industry and academics.

“The Earth Observation Hub will help UK scientists make the most of the wealth of information we are collecting about our home planet, in vital areas such as monitoring the effects of climate change or so we can respond quickly to natural disasters throughout the world,” Mr. Willetts said.

“It’s the important first step in making the International Space Innovation Centre a reality, linking regional space capabilities and promoting knowledge-sharing between academia and industry. This will support further growth in a sector already worth more than £6 billion a year to our economy,” he added.

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council fellowships

Mr Willetts also announced further investment in the future of British research with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council awarding fellowships totalling £38m.

After a rigorous selection process the council handed out 30 Career Acceleration Fellowships, which allows the recipient to cover their research costs, and 16 Leadership Fellowships, which support talented researchers in becoming international research leaders.

“Supporting talented scientists and engineers throughout their careers is crucial to driving the UK’s science base and economy forward,” Mr. Willetts said. “These prestigious fellowships are an important investment for the future, and will help us develop innovative technologies and solutions for the major challenges ahead, and secure our place as global winners.”