Intergalactic Investment: Government Increases Funding for Space Tech to Reduce Carbon Emissions and Improve Energy Security

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  • £3m for solar energy harvesting projects with satellites in Earth orbit
  • government-backed high-powered weather sensor, four times more powerful than those on existing satellites, to enter orbit for the first time
  • MP David Morris will be the new national space champion, supporting the industry on behalf of the government

Funding pioneering new space technologies will help cut carbon emissions, improve energy security and boost the UK’s reputation as a science superpower, the Business and Energy Secretary announced today, Kwasi Kwarteng.

A £3m grant will be made available for Space Solar Power Projects (SBSP) which collect energy from the sun using solar panels orbiting the Earth and can provide power clean, day and night, unaffected by weather conditions.

The technology has the potential to boost energy security by providing a reliable and affordable alternative to expensive and volatile fossil fuels, while reducing the UK’s contributions to climate change.

Grants will also be made available for advanced weather monitoring sensors to aid in more accurate weather forecasting. The sensors will be launched into orbit for the first time, thanks to a partnership with data and analytics firm Spire Global.

The microwave hyperspectral sounder (HYMNS), developed by the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s RAL space, will help weather agencies and businesses around the world involved in planning, navigation and flood warnings. It is 4 times more powerful than the sensors used on existing satellites.

In another demonstration of the Government’s commitment to the sector, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, David Morris, will be the first-ever National Space Champion. He will work closely with industry to ensure the UK space sector continues to grow, attract investment and develop innovative products. Morris is a long-time supporter of the UK space industry and chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Space.

Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:

Space-based solar power could provide an affordable, clean and reliable source of energy that the whole world could benefit from, helping move away from expensive fossil fuels. Today’s investment is an exciting example of how we can take our ambitions of making the UK a scientific superpower even further.

I am also delighted that the HYMNS technology, developed in Oxfordshire, will be put into use by Spire Global to help improve weather forecasts.

These projects are important milestones for our national space strategy, developing the UK’s space capabilities while boosting the economy and creating highly skilled jobs.

National Space Champion David Morris MP said:

It is a privilege to be asked to be the first National Space Champion in the UK and this appointment shows the government’s commitment to the sector and its commitment to its growth.

The UK space sector is fast becoming a world leader and I look forward to being an industry champion in government to ensure we are able to lead the industry to even greater growth.

An independent report has revealed significant commercial potential in the development of SBSP’s underlying technologies as full-fledged products, particularly in wireless power transmission and solar power.

Likewise, the HYMNS occupies a footprint fifty times smaller than current technology, making it possible to launch dozens of HYMNSequipped with satellites, together forming a constellation capable of tracking fast-moving extreme weather phenomena such as hurricanes.

Dr Paul Bate, Director General of the UK Space Agency, said:

Satellite technology is helping us solve some of the biggest challenges we face. We work with the space sector to drive innovation, catalyze investment and bring tangible benefits to people and businesses across the UK.

As these 2 new projects show, space is not only vital to help us monitor the weather and our environment, it can also provide new solutions to our future energy needs and support the global fight against climate change.

I would also like to welcome the appointment of a National Space Champion and look forward to working with David Morris to support our growing sector.

The UK space sector employs around 47,000 people directly in the UK and supports around 190,000 supply chain jobs. Building on National Space Strategy commitments to grow the economy and lead pioneering scientific discoveries, these 2 projects will help protect and grow these high-quality jobs across the country for generations to come.

Notes to Editors

1. HYMNS was developed by RAL Space, the UK’s national space laboratory, at the Harwell Space Cluster in Oxfordshire, with £600,000 funding from the UK Space Agency’s (UKSA) National Space Innovation Programme.

2. The Council for Scientific and Technological Equipment (STFC) RAL Space will work with data and analytics company Spire Global to prepare HYMNS for deployment in space, with the long-term goal of delivering a full constellation of satellites.

3. The work will be carried out both in Oxfordshire, at RAL Space, and in Glasgow, where Spire Global has its UK headquarters and satellite manufacturing facility. The space industry supported 8,440 jobs in Scotland in 2020, almost a fifth of the total 46,995 jobs in the space industry across the UK. The UK space sector generates an income of £16.5 billion a year. Scotland will also host the UK’s first vertical launches of small satellites next year, from the spaceports of SaxaVord and Sutherland.

4. STFC is part of UK Research Innovation.

5. Further information on the concept of space solar power can be found in the report Space Solar Power: Reducing Risks on the Road to Net Zero, commissioned by BEIS. Funding for the SBSP Innovation Program was made available from the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio.

6. David Morris has been MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale since 2010. He was previously a member of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee and was the Government’s Ambassador for Freelancers and the Self-Employed (2014-2016). He was appointed Deputy Government Whip in July 2022 and currently chairs the Lancashire All Party Parliamentary Group.

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