The UK government has announced that 21 projects from businesses, universities, and research organisations have been awarded a share of a £7 million funding tranche to help keep the UK at the forefront of space innovation post Brexit.

The grants, which come from a pot of £15 million in total, range from £170,000 to £1.4 million per project. The money comes from the UK Space Agency’s National Space Innovation Programme (NSIP).

Space technologies are not just about exploring the solar system or observing the universe from Earth. They are also about monitoring the planet from space, embracing such innovations as new sensor types, communications satellites, and global positioning systems, creating a broad spectrum of new opportunities and markets, including the maintenance of space-based systems.

Among the benefits are accurate mapping, improved communications and connectivity, environmental protection, managing fleets of autonomous craft, weather monitoring, locating rare minerals, and stopping the spread of pollution.

The winning projects include:

  • Earth observation (EO) based mapping and monitoring of Wetlands carbon sequestration, by Argans.
  • Greenhouse gas emission monitoring by GHGWatch, Geospatial Insight, and the University of Leicester.
  • Precision forestry monitoring to tackle climate change by the Open University, 2Excel Geo, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Forest Research, Grey Consultants, In-Space, RAL Space, Teledyne e2v, and XCAM.
  • Satellite-based high-resolution infrared sensors for heat detection, by Global Satellite VU and Surrey Satellite Technology.
  • Returnable satellites for sustainable communications, by Nexus, Space Forge, Compound Semiconductor, Applications Catapult, and AAC Clyde Space.
  • Project CitiScan to monitor cities and industrial complexes and reduce carbon emissions, by D-Orbit UK, Thales Alenia Space UK, and the University of Leicester.
  • A future telecommunications payload to demonstrate technologies such as quantum key distribution and AI, by Craft Prospect, Strathclyde University, Bristol University, and Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics.
  • New faster, high-resolution EO imaging sensors by Teledyne e2v and Craft Prospect.
  • The STORICLI project by HR Wallingford to monitor emerging challenges in water supply/demand due to climate change.
  • The BRAIL (Backhaul Radio Access with Integrated LEO) project, exploring how to improve satellite connectivity and communications, led by the Satellite Applications Catapult, with OneWeb, LiveWire Digital, and the University of Strathclyde.
  • The AI4CC Toolbox project from Trillium Technologies, applying machine learning to EO data to help mitigate against climate change, in partnership with Oxford University Innovation and
  • High-resolution thermal infrared space telescopes for monitoring the energy efficiency of buildings, led by the University of Cambridge, with Super-Sharp Space Systems and Open Cosmos.
  • A hyperspectral nanosatellite constellation for climate change mitigation from RAL Space and STFC.
  • A collaboration between space and mining companies led by the Satellite Applications Catapult, to use satellite data and advanced analytics to increase the identification of battery metals, with Decision Lab, CGG Satellite Mapping, Terrabotics, Pixalutics, Cornish Lithium, the University of Exeter, and BGS.
  • Real-time maritime vessel location, performance, and emissions monitoring by UMAS International and University College London (UCL).
  • Laser-optical communications for CubeSats, by the University of Northumbria at Newcastle, with ISOCOM.
  • A software-defined satellite service that allows new applications to be uploaded from the ground, by In-Space Missions, Subcos Wave RF, and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL).
  • A space-based mobile network from Lynk Global, Reason, and
  • A small-satellite-based LiDAR system from the University of Edinburgh, Fraunhofer UK Research, the UK Astronomy Tech Centre, and the University of Strathclyde.
  • A quantum accelerometer to measure the density of the Earth’s thermosphere from space, by Thales Alenia Space, Teledyne e2v, the University of Birmingham, and RAL Space. And
  • And the Data SlipStream project, using EO technologies to monitor climate change, from the University of Edinburgh, Resilience Constellation Management, Data-Driven Innovation, and the Edinburgh & South East Scotland City Region.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said, “We want the UK to be a world leader in space technology, which is why we are supporting our most ambitious innovators who are developing first-of-a-kind technologies to help solve some of our greatest challenges.

“From slashing carbon emissions to protecting the UK’s critical services from harmful cyber-attacks, today’s funding will unshackle our most entrepreneurial space scientists so that they can transfer their revolutionary ideas into world-class products and services, while helping to boost the UK economy.”

Dr Graham Turnock, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, added, “Space technologies have become deeply embedded in, and critical to, almost every aspect of our daily lives. With rapid technological innovation, space offers a broad and growing range of opportunities to support economic activity and protect the environment.”

According to an announcement from the government this week, £5 million of the programme funding has been set aside for international projects.

The UK remains a leading member of the European Space Agency, which is independent of the EU.