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UK Space Agency launches funding for Moon satellite tech

Space Agency moon funding
Image credit: Shutterstock

The UK Space Agency has unveiled a £51m funding package for space tech companies to create communication and navigation services for Moon missions.

The funding package comes from the European Space Agency’s Moonlight programme, which aims to have a constellation of satellites in lunar orbit from 2028.

George Freeman, minister of state, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said: “Space and satellite science and technology are at the forefront of our Science Superpower mission, which is why we have set out a 10-year Industrial Strategy for Space to attract the billions of commercial investment now coming into this sector, already worth £16.5bn to the UK economy.”

The Moon satellites project is being led by the UK and Italy. Its goal is to develop technology for navigation on the Moon and sharing lunar data, including high-definition video.

Firms that work on the Moonlight programme will also develop a telecommunication and navigation service for the European Space Agency, “while being free to sell lunar services and solutions to other agencies and commercial ventures”.

Speaking to UKTN, Bianca Cefalo, CEO and co-founder, Space DOTS said: “Organisations and governments can spend billions on space-based assets, without truly knowing if they’ll function properly when in orbit.

“If the government wants to protect its investments for these missions and be certain its assets will be operational and deliver value, then every material must be optimised and rigorously tested for the extreme conditions of the future space missions.”

According to the government, the UK’s space and satellite industry employs of 47,000 people.

NASA and the European Space Agency are developing a lunar space station called Gateway, which will provide astronauts on the Moon with an orbiting base of operations.

“Every lunar mission will need communications and right now, they mostly handle communications themselves on a mission-by-mission basis,” said Dr. Maureen Haverty, VP of investment at Seraphim Space Manager told UKTN.

“But this is impossible to scale. It’s expensive and inefficient and is actively slowing down missions. Establishing a lunar communications service would take this burden off each mission, allowing the economy to scale.”

Various UK startups are looking to capitalise on the commercial space race space, such as Edinburgh-based Skyrora, which is building launch infrastructure for satellites.

Earlier this year Virgin Orbit attempted the first satellite launch from the UK, but it “fell short of reaching its target orbit”.

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