in Space

UK Space Agency provides support for Earth monitoring tech

Posted 2 August 2023

Funding for satellite Earth Observation technologies, which are critical to improving humanity’s understanding of our planet and its climate, is now available.

Above: TRUTHS mission, setting the gold standard for climate measurements from space.
Credit: ESA

The £15 million UK Space Agency funding will support the research and experimental development of space-based instruments, aimed at supporting a range of environmental services, which could include meteorology, climate monitoring, environmental management, agriculture and urban planning, and improving scientific knowledge.

The UK is already a world leader in Earth Observation (EO) tools, technologies and data use. This funding will help to accelerate the development of promising UK EO technologies which could be flown on satellites in the next few years.

The National Space Strategy in Action report, published in July, set out the government’s plans for how the UK will remain at the forefront of EO technology and know-how for commercial and public services.

Minister of State at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology George Freeman MP, said: "Earth Observation technology is critical to tackling the fundamental challenges of our age – from monitoring climate change to responding to humanitarian disasters – and so we owe it to the future of our planet to harness the UK’s world-leading skills in this field.

"This pivotal technology doesn’t stop there and from ensuring the safety of bridges to enabling our farmers get the best from their land, this £15m investment will boost our economy and drive forward our ambition to make the UK a science superpower."

The Earth Observation Technology Programme funding, delivered by the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI), is part of a £400 million package announced in November 2022 to support the UK’s Earth Observation sector.

Harshbir Sangha, Missions and Capabilities Delivery Director at the UK Space Agency, said: "Satellite technology is essential to our daily lives, helping us to monitor climate change and protect our environment, manage our resources, respond to global humanitarian disasters and support sustainable development.

"This funding will help catalyse investment across the sector to support a range of innovative projects, from developing new sensor technologies to using the data for improved understanding of climate change."

The £15 million funding will cover Pathfinder projects of up to £75,000, Fast Track projects of up to £250,000 and Flagship projects of up to £3 million.

Pathfinder and Fast Track projects will support new and innovative ideas for technology development, including early-stage research and lab-based experimental hardware.

Flagship projects will develop technologies further, including testing instruments in relevant environments such as vacuum chambers and airborne demonstration flights.

Chris Brownsword, Director of the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation, said: "This call for grant proposals is the 16th the CEOI has released on behalf of the UK Space Agency and represents a significant increase over past funding opportunities. It will continue to support innovative new technology developments, paving the way for future novel UK developed instruments, but importantly will also provide significantly larger grants to make a step change in the pace of technology development.

"It has been recognised that previous CEOI calls have had major impact across the entire UK Earth Observation community; bringing together academia and industry to develop UK owned technologies. We are excited to see what successes this new call can facilitate."

Since 2016 the Earth Observation Technology Programme has provided £20 million in funding across a total of 57 projects. These include a next Generation Synthetic Aperture Radar for Oceanography led by the National Oceanography Centre with Airbus, a Compact Infrared Imager and Radiometer led by the University of Oxford, and a Laser Heterodyne Radiometer led by RAL Space.

This funding opportunity is the latest in a series of technology development activities the UK Space Agency has issued under its Earth Observation Technology Programme. Since 2016 this programme has provided £20 million in funding across a total of 57 projects, with many of these now progressing on their roadmaps towards flight on commercial, societal and research space missions.

These include a next Generation Synthetic Aperture Radar for Oceanography led by the National Oceanography Centre with Airbus, a Compact Infrared Imager and Radiometer led by the University of Oxford, and a Laser Heterodyne Radiometer led by RAL-Space.

Professor John Remedios, Executive Director of the National Centre for Earth Observation, said: "The UK has a proud history of developing satellite instruments which have transformed our understanding of the global Earth system from ocean temperature change to polar ice melt.

"Working together, the new investment will enable the UK to design and test our next ‘eyes on our world’. The UK has a vibrant community of Earth Observation scientists in our research laboratories, universities and industry who can bring novel technologies, smart mathematical algorithms and exciting datasets into leading partnerships across the world."

Dr Jonathan Taylor, Principal Fellow at the Met Office, said: "Investment in Earth Observations (EO) is vital for the ongoing development in weather and climate research and prediction. We look forward to working with successful applicants to understand how the Met Office and our partners can benefit a wide range of users with innovative services and information from new EO technology."






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