British Space Sector flies to US to showcase potential for space

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Seven of the most promising British start-ups that are focused on changing the way we access, use and evaluate data from satellites, are travelling to the United States to pitch for new business and investment this week.

With every new space technology developed, the possibilities for using space to improve the way we work on Earth increases. Each of the companies has a unique offering, but all are closely involved with space data, such as Earth Observation (EO), space imagery and analytics.

Seven companies will take part in the mission. Five of the companies are being funded by Innovate UK, the government’s innovation agency and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), and mission partner the Satellite Applications Catapult, based in Harwell Oxfordshire, is taking two companies.

Space Mission 2.0, led by Innovate UK, is taking place in Houston, Texas between the 15th and 20th November 2015. The UK delegates will attend the Space Commerce Conference and Exposition (SpaceCom) in Houston and will meet with leading companies and investors in the field of satellite applications and space technologies. The Satellite Applications Catapult will host the five Innovate UK and UKTI space companies on its stand at the SpaceCom Expo. Stuart Martin, CEO of the Satellite Applications Catapult will also be giving a keynote address entitled ‘Mission Earth – How Space is Empowering a Better World’ at the conference.

The delegates will meet teams from NASA, network with leaders from the burgeoning US space industry and pitch their businesses to space investors.

Tim Just, Head of Space at Innovate UK, said: “Space Mission 2.0 will provide the best of the British space industry ample opportunities for growth through the support of the UK government. I believe that all of these flourishing businesses are exploring new boundaries in the global space race which will soon change businesses and bring tangible benefits to society. This mission will help the companies to forge new partnerships with their US counterparts and learn from leaders in the reputable US space industry.”

According to a report by the Satellite Industry Association, global satellite industry revenues were $203 billion in 2014, 4% growth from 2013. More specifically, EO satellite services revenue grew by 9% from 2013-2014. Satellite data, when applied beyond imagery, has opened new doors to address critical needs in the fields of research, environmental monitoring, discovering natural resources and food production.

Steven Gonzalez, Associate Manager, Strategic Partnership Office, NASA said: “We’re pleased to welcome these innovative UK space companies to Houston, and NASA is looking forward to reviewing their products and exploring potential partnership opportunities with them. Public/private partnerships enable us to achieve our space exploration goals while benefiting the growing global space industry, and we’re excited about the potential of the British space sector.”

The EO data analytics sector is a fast-growing sector. Space Mission 2.0 delegate, Rezatec Limited, processes large amounts of data from satellite observation, airborne and ground instruments to provide data products for its customers in order to address commercial opportunities in relation to water, agriculture and biomass supply chain sectors. Data can help businesses make better informed decisions which can help to reduce costs and add economic value. For example, the firm has worked with major UK water companies to help them better manage peatlands, helping them be more efficient and save money.

However the space mission companies are also helping to transform the way that space data is used in the academic world. Previously, access to space data has often been restricted to select scientists and field researchers, with academics often having to wait lengthy periods of time to access oversubscribed facilities such as the Hubble Space and Spitzer telescope. Space Mission 2.0 companies such as Blue Skies Space are working to make satellite data more widely accessible. The firm is currently working on a £50 million ($~76 million) astrophysics satellite with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd called Twinkle to observe the atmospheres of exoplanets, at a reduced cost. The service will be available to a worldwide user base of academic researchers and will ensure that data is easily accessible to emerging space nations who may not currently have direct access to observational data.

Stuart Martin, CEO of the Satellite Applications Catapult, said: “SpaceCom provides an incredibly exciting opportunity to raise not only the profile of the world-leading capability offered by the UK’s space sector, but for us to continue building important partnerships with key stakeholders – both in Houston and across the US.

“SpaceCom’s focus on stimulating business innovation across multiple industries, including maritime, energy and communications directly aligns with the Catapult’s own approach. This has seen us successfully working with many sectors, promoting the wide-ranging commercial and societal benefits that satellite technology and downstream applications offer,” he added.

The seven companies selected range from start-ups to medium sized space companies and are making strong headway in broadening access to space data and environmental analytics which will enable solutions to a number of significant societal challenges.  

The seven companies on the mission are:

  • Ecometrica, a firm that offers advanced environmental analytics based on space data, at a fraction of the cost of traditional consultancies (Edinburgh)
  • Rezatec Limited, which gives companies access to advanced space data analytics to help make informed business decisions (Harwell Oxford)
  • Terrabotics, which makes sense of EO imagery to support big industries engaged in complex operations in remote and challenging environments around the world (London)
  • Blue Skies Space Ltd, which is changing the way academics access space data, making it universally available (London)
  • Geocento Limited, which is an online marketplace for easily comparing and purchasing EO and satellite data – therefore making EO data more widely available (Harwell Oxford)
  • Oxford Space Systems, a company which aims to become the leading supplier of deployable space structures globally (Harwell Oxford)
  • Gyana, a start-up that uses advanced mathematics and machine learning to harness big data for use in everyday life (Oxford)