UK Space Agency Funds Tech For Orbital Awareness. The UK Space Agency is an executive agency of the department for business innovation and skills and at the heart of UK efforts and benefits from space. According to Wikipedia, the agency is responsible for the United kingdom civil space program. It is based at the former BNSC headquarters in Swindon, Wiltshire.
It was formed 10years ago,2010 to replace the British National Space Centre and took over responsibility for government policy and key budgets for space exploration. Thus, it represents the United Kingdom in every negotiation on space matters.
UK Space Agency Funds Tech For Orbital Awareness
According to BBC, new approaches to tracking satellites and debris in orbit are to get a boost from the UK Space Agency.
The UKSA is offering over £1m to seven firms to help I advancing novel sensor technologies and the smart algorithms needed to interpret their data.
To find better ways to surveil objects moving overhead has become a high priority issue. However, with more satellites being launched, there’s growing concerned about the potential for collisions.
The burgeoning population of redundant hardware and junk in orbit has become a big worry, thus, some 900,000 objects larger than 1cm by some counts, and all of it capable of doing immense damage to, or even destroying, an operational spacecraft in a high-velocity encounter.
Moreover, the project supported by the UKSA comes from a mix of start-ups and more established companies. The main goal is to improve ways to spot, characterize, and track objects.
This information could be fed into automated traffic management systems of the future that will keep functioning satellites out of harm’s way.
List Of The Funded Projects
Here is the list of the funded projects and their objectives
Fujitsu: To develop machine learning approaches and quantum-inspired processing to improve mission planning to clear debris.
Andor: this is to enhance the sensitivity and speed of its camera detector technology to map and track smaller sized debris objects.
Lift Me Off: to develop machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques to distinguish between satellites and space junk.
Lumi Space: this is to help in developing laser ranging tech to again spot, characterize, and precisely track objects in orbit.
Deimos and Northern Space and security: to develop a new range of optical sensors to track space objects from the UK.
D-Orbit UK: the company is to refine the use of recently launched sensors to capture images of, and character, objects moving around a spacecraft.
According to Jacob from UKSA “We’ve known for a long while that the space environment is getting more difficult, more cluttered. Space surveillance and tracking is one of the major things we can do to keep safe those satellites we rely on now and to make sure certain orbits don’t become inaccessible for future generations because there’s too much debris in them.”
He told BBC News “ We had 26 proposals come to us and I think we’ve selected a good cross-section of ideas in the seven companies we’re supporting.”
However, while most of these projects are still at the lab stage, D-Orbit’s work is dedicated to pushing the capability of some of its hardware already in space.
Recently, the company launched a vehicle to carry and deploy a clutch of small satellites. The vehicles use cameras to photograph their surroundings and to map the stars for navigation purposes.
D-Orbit has the idea of identifying passing junk with the use of the camera’s imagery.
Simon Reid explained D-Orbit saying “One of the challenges in using star trackers is filtering out objects that are not supposed to be there because you’re trying to compare what you can see against a star catalog. And of course, it’s those extras objects which in principle are the things that are potentially debris.”
Furthermore, the funding announcement also coincides with the signing of a new partnership agreement between the ministry of defense and UKSA to work together on space domain awareness. Both have valuable interest and assets in orbit that needs to be protected. For the UK taxpayer, the investment was currently deepened with the purchase out of bankruptcy of the OneWeb satellite broadband company.
The United kingdom government is now the part-owner of one of the biggest spacecraft networks in the sky. OneWeb has so far released 74 satellites in its communication constellation, with plans to put up thousands more.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma says “ millions of pieces of space junk orbiting the earth present a significant threat to UK satellite systems which provide the vital services that we all take for granted, that is from mobile communications to weather forecasting.
Thus “By developing new AI and sensor tech, the seven pioneering space projects we are backing today will significantly strengthen the UK’s capabilities to monitor these hazardous space objects, helping to create new jobs and protect the services we rely on in our daily lives.”