Space for Our Future: UK aims to join Atlantic Constellation with funding for new Earth observation satellite

21/11/2023

THE UK is aiming to join Portugal and Spain as a member of the Atlantic Constellation and is contributing a new pathfinder satellite designed and built by a UK-based company adding to the innovative Earth and coastal monitoring and data sharing network.

This new commitment, announced on the opening day of the UK Space Conference in Belfast, will further strengthen the UK’s national capabilities in Earth observation technology and complement the UK’s contributions to the EU Copernicus programme, European Space Agency and bilateral missions.

The UK Space Agency is providing £3 million to support the build of the new pathfinder satellite, intended to be one of the first in the Constellation, with co-funding from Open Cosmos, based on the Harwell Space Campus in Oxfordshire.

The Atlantic Constellation is a flagship, global project for the development of a constellation of small satellites for Ocean, Earth and Climate monitoring. 

 The satellite built in the UK will be of the same design and launched in the same orbital plane as 3 others from Portugal constituting the first batch of the constellation. This will significantly increase the frequency of revisit time at the beginning of the Constellation formation, offering valuable and regularly updated data, and supporting critical services such as the detection, monitoring and mitigation of natural disasters.

Minister of State at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, Andrew Griffith, said:

Earth observation will play an absolutely vital role in tackling global challenges like climate change and disaster relief, providing the data we need at speed, while supporting key UK industries like agriculture and energy.

 “By working with Open Cosmos on a new satellite and supporting our Atlantic partners, Spain and Portugal, we can harness space tech for our shared goals, while creating new skills opportunities and jobs for the future to grow the UK economy.”

Open Cosmos is a growing company that has recently added a further two satellite missions to its OpenConstellation, successfully launched on 11thNovember and recently raised $50 million in Series B funding from leading impact investors to accelerate its international growth and expand its product offering.

Rafael Jorda Siquier, Chief Executive of Open Cosmos, said: 

“Building a shared satellite constellation is a very effective way of having high revisit diverse data over each region of interest. The UK joining Portugal and Spain in the Atlantic Constellation is a major step forward in the national EO strategy and we are very proud that Open Cosmos has been contracted to deliver the first UK pathfinder satellite.”

The UK Space Conference

The announcement comes as the UK Space Conference is set to open in Belfast, with the theme of Space for Our Future. The UK Space Agency will also unveil a package of 23 projects worth £4 million from its Enabling Technologies Programme and create a Rocketry Research, Training and Teaching (R2T2) Hub, delivering rocket science PhDs that support the growing UK satellite launch market.

Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: 

“There’s no better way to open the UK Space Conference than by backing a new Earth observation mission and investing in the future workforce, with support for new rocket science PhDs.

“Space has been shaping our lives for decades but is set to become increasingly critical as we take the necessary steps to protect our planet, drive prosperity and push the boundaries of human knowledge.

That’s why we are focused on catalysing investment, delivering new missions and capabilities in areas such as Earth observation and the low-Earth orbit economy, and championing the opportunities that our growing space sector brings to people and businesses up and down the country.

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