Satellite orbiting earth

Space infrastructure fund has potential to level up communities

The UK Space Agency has announced new funding to support the development of key infrastructure, with the investment marking the government’s first dedicated space infrastructure fund.

Funding will be matched to UK organisations through the Space Clusters and Infrastructure Fund (SCIF), as the government looks to develop the research and development facilities that are necessary to make space products mission-ready. This will then allow them to be sold into commercial markets.

Industry and academia will be able to apply for a share of the £50 million fund, with their success being based upon their ability to deliver projects allowing for the procurement, building, or upgrade of research and development facilities and equipment. At this moment the funding is a pilot programme that will support 5-10 projects with up to £10 million of funding each.

With the developments brought on by these projects, critical anchor points are being created at a local level to allow for the creation of hundreds of jobs in areas around the country. This compliments the government’s levelling up mission, something that is also a priority of the UK Space Agency. Due to this priority, the majority of the SCIF funding is to be delivered outside of the Greater South-East, however proposals are welcomed from around the United Kingdom.

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

“The UK has a thriving space sector, which is well-established and globally respected. We are growing this exciting sector further, by catalysing investment, delivering missions and capabilities, and championing the power of space to improve lives.

“The Space Clusters and Infrastructure Fund demonstrates the government’s commitment to space and will help deliver the ambition set out I the National Space Strategy to build one of the most innovative and attractive space economies in the world, developing new skills and creating jobs.”

Alongside the funding that is coming from the UK Space Agency, £1.84 billion has been invested into national projects through the European Space Agency. That funding will contribute to ensuring that the UK’s space and satellite sector is able to play a major role in future missions, as well as innovative commercial projects.

Previous UK government funding has been invested in infrastructure such as the National Satellite Test Facilities (Harwell) and the National Space Propulsion Test Facility (Westcott) on a case-by-case basis. The former is set to open later this year and includes the nation’s largest vacuum test chamber, with the ability to exposed satellites the size of a double decker bus to extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, for months at a time. The facility also allows for the replication of the conditions of a rocket launch, through vibration. The National Space Propulsion Test Facility also allows organisations in the UK to test state-of-the-art engines that are used to move large satellites when in space. The facility also ensures that they are able to do so at a more affordable rate than if the tests were to be conducted abroad.

Director of the industry trade association UKSpace, Lizzie Kerr, said:

“R&D underpins so much of the UK space industry’s activities and continued innovation. UKSpace therefore welcomes this funding commitment from the Government which has the potential to impact many of our members, by developing and renewing facilities, and bringing growth and employment across the UK.”

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