UK Boldly Steps into Atlantic Constellation with New Pathfinder Satellite

06/01/2024

Joining Forces with Portugal and Spain

The United Kingdom has set its sights on the stars, announcing its intent to become a member of the prestigious Atlantic Constellation. In a move that will bolster the nation’s Earth observation capabilities, the UK is contributing a cutting-edge pathfinder satellite, crafted by a homegrown company. This initiative aligns with the UK’s ongoing involvement in the EU Copernicus programme and other international collaborations in space technology.

Investment in the Future of Earth Monitoring

The UK Space Agency is injecting £3 million into the construction of the pathfinder satellite, one of the first to be part of the Constellation. Oxfordshire-based Open Cosmos, which will co-fund the project, is at the helm of the satellite’s development. The Atlantic Constellation aims for a global reach in small satellite deployment for comprehensive oceanic, terrestrial, and climatic surveillance.

Increasing the Revisit Frequency

The UK-built satellite will mirror the design of three others from Portugal, launching into the same orbital plane. This strategic move promises to enhance the frequency of Earth revisits, ensuring an influx of timely data crucial for environmental monitoring and disaster management.

Government and Industry Leaders Weigh In

Minister of State for Science, Innovation, and Technology, Andrew Griffith, highlights Earth observation as a critical tool in addressing global issues, such as climate change. He emphasizes the economic and employment benefits this project will bring to key UK sectors. Open Cosmos CEO, Rafael Jorda Siquier, shares the pride in contributing to the national Earth observation (EO) strategy through the Atlantic Constellation partnership.

Space Conference Lift-Off in Belfast

The UK Space Conference kicks off in Belfast under the theme ‘Space for Our Future’, showcasing the UK Space Agency’s commitment to space innovation. The agency unveils a £4 million Enabling Technologies Programme and announces the establishment of a Rocketry Research, Training and Teaching (R2T2) Hub, aimed at nurturing the next generation of rocket scientists to support the burgeoning UK satellite launch market.

Enhancing Global Data Accessibility

UK’s involvement in the Atlantic Constellation is poised to boost the revisit time over Earth by 33%, a significant step in achieving a high-frequency data stream for disaster relief operations. As the Constellation’s policies for data access and provision are finalized, UK users will soon enjoy the luxury of tasking the satellite and reaping the benefits of more frequent observations.

Fostering Technological Innovation

With a generous £4 million funding pool, the Enabling Technologies Programme (ETP) fuels the ambition of the UK to lead in new space technologies. Spanning projects across multiple regions, the ETP explores innovative ways to employ space for vital functions like weather forecasting, environmental monitoring, and space debris mitigation.

Preparing for a Spaceflight Future

The R2T2 PhD Hub, backed by a £4.9 million investment from the UK Space Agency, is set to train 30 PhD graduates in rocket science, ensuring a steady stream of expert personnel for the country’s expanding spaceflight sector. This initiative is part of a broader strategy to empower the youth with the necessary skills for a thriving space industry.

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