The UK Space Agency has announced £50 million of funding for ambitious and innovative projects that will supercharge the UK’s satellite communications industry.
The funding, which is part of the European Space Agency (ESA) Advanced Research in Telecommunications Services (ARTES) programme, is available for a wide range of projects, such as developing new satellite constellations, the ground systems needed to access them, or whole end-to-end systems delivering new services to customers.
These could include integrating 5G systems to unlock connectivity for people and machines through upgrading infrastructure to enable new markets and services such as drones or driverless haulage, creating space-based networks to rival cable-based terrestrial ones, and helping UK space operators to use disruptive new technologies and business models to enable global operations.
UK Minister for Space and Science George Freeman said:
“Developing UK space capabilities and maximising commercial opportunities are key to the National Space Strategy, as part of our plans to become a leading power in space and build on a sector already worth £16.5 billion to the UK economy.
“We are determined to invest in our world class satellite technology sector, which is why I committed £1.8 billion for UK participation in ESA programs over the next five years and recently committed £190 million specifically to participate in international telecommunications missions.
“This latest £50 million UK Space Agency funding will help more companies into our vibrant fast growth UK space telecoms sector, helping drive both growth and wider UK economic resilience.”
The UK already has a fast-growing satellite communications industry, with services contributing £10.4 billion to the economy and to the creation of more than 26,600 jobs.
Successful companies will have the opportunity to help kick off the next generation of satellite communications hardware, paving the way for services that can provide better quality connectivity in remote and hard-to-reach places, higher bandwidth, lower latency, and increased security.
UK Space Agency CEO Dr Paul Bate said:
“This is an exciting time to be involved in the satellite communications industry as the world increases its dependence on these services to manage business, travel, security, infrastructure, connectivity, and more.
“This funding will help UK companies that have the right expertise and ambition to become global players in this market and lead on ground-breaking technologies that will enhance the wider UK space sector, create jobs and generate further investment.
“I look forward to seeing the results of the competition and following the successful projects in their next steps.”
The UK is a leading investor in ARTES, having committed £190 million to the programme at the ESA Council of Ministers in November.
Previous UK projects funded by ARTES include Sunrise, supporting the delivery of OneWeb’s first generation platform and user terminals for a UK-wide supply chain, and Pioneer, working with companies including Spire Global and AAC Clydespace to develop infrastructure that will enable new service providers with low cost and quick access to space.