Proposed Position Paper

Why Space?

The Opportunity for Material Science and Innovation


Request of the Research Community (Academic, Government and Industry)

To provide written authored contributions (~500 words) from those involved in materials research, development and implementation, on the potential opportunity provided by the space environment/exploration.

You do not need to be part of the space sector to contribute, the focus is understanding the opportunity from the materials community as a whole. Speculative contributions from experts across the community are welcome, as this will help inform topical areas and direction

Those who are already working on space-related projects are also welcome to contribute and we will harness these to showcase existing space-related activity in the paper.

Why are contributions being requested

With the UK’s growing space economy and launch ambitions, coupled with its leading expertise in materials science and related R&D/Manufacturing and international developments in this area, there existed a strong basis for proposing the related development of a materials science and innovation position paper.

This would lead to a cohesive case which can both educate funders as to the comprehensive opportunity for discovery and applied level research through involvement with space, as well as support the exploration by leaders from industry, to better understand the possibilities for new innovation pipelines and underlying considerations.


How can I contribute?

We are welcoming contributions to the paper from now until 30 April 2023.

A template is available to standardise all contributions to these can be synthesised into the position paper – this can be requested by filling in the details at the bottom of this website.

What do you mean by Materials?

This is a broad topic, which is why the paper created through aggregating contributions is highly desirable to provide guidance.

However, the focus here should be on Research & Innovation. We have provided guidance on some potential areas where the materials community could contribute, including:-

The impact of/opportunity of the space environment to enable Material developments such as:0

  • 2D Materials
  • Nano Materials
  • Advanced Ceramics
  • Superalloys and hybrid alloys
  • Novel Polymers and Fibres
  • Functional Coatings and Thin Films
  • Smart Materials (e.g. Self repairing, monitoring of longevity etc)
  • Biological (e.g. Engineering biology, pharma etc)
  • Other

Material Properties – Impact and/or considerations of the space environment on material properties

  • Testing the impact of space on material properties (functionality, resilience etc – either through exposure to of terrestrial made materials or the creation of materials in space)
  • Measurement of fundamental thermo-physical properties e.g. surface tension, viscosity, heat transfer etc

Material Processes – Impact of the space environment on processes

  • Solidification, evaporation etc
  • Polymerization
  • Emulsification
  • Lyophilization

Considerations for In-Orbit Manufacturing & Services

  • For example, 3D Printing implications

Considerations for harnessing materials in space

  • For example, linked to the utilisation of lunar regolith


  • Inspiring future materials science and innovation

How has this activity evolved?

In May 2021 the UK Space Life and Biomedical Sciences Association launched the position paper – Why Space? The opportunity for Health and Life Sciences Innovation, in order to understand and galvanise the collective opportunity for the sector with space1.

To understand the possibility to translate this model to the materials community, several workshops were run in 2021/2022, attended by a cross-section of UK Academia, Industry and government.

A consensus emerged that there was a need to collectively articulate the opportunity for the materials community for utilisation/ engagement with the space sector across a range of sub-disciplines.

This would provide both policy makers, funders and innovators with a clearer idea of the potential opportunity and what is required to enable it.

Who is involved in this paper and what will happen to the contributions

A working group of volunteers from the research community have come together to develop the paper, including supporting contributors with their submission and the review of these.

The Working Group Members Include:

  • Ian Hamerton – University of Bristol
  • Marcello Lappa – University of Strathclyde
  • Andrew Kao – University of Greenwich
  • Peter C E Roberts – University of Manchester
  • Marco Domingos – University of Manchester & Henry Royce Institute
  • Phil Carvil – Science and Technology Facilities Council | UK Research & Innovation
  • Hamid Soorghali – Satellite Applications Catapult

This project is supported by the Satellite Applications Catapult.

Each authored contribution will be assessed by two reviewers and if accepted, subject to amendments, will be included in the appendix of the paper. Please note submission does not guarantee acceptance.

The inputs from the contributions will be synthesised into thematic chapters which will group related inputs and draw out the common features, collectively articulating the opportunity. These will also reference the contributors.


Each potential contributor(s) will need to fill in the enquiry form below, to request the template. This is so all contributions can be in a standardised format to allow assessment and the pull through of any key recommendations.

Should you have any additional feedback, please do get in contact with and we look forward to hearing from you.

Fill out my online form.


Following the launch of the call for authored scientific contributions to the proposed position paper – Why Space? The opportunity for Materials Science and Innovation, the working group from Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) behind the paper (supported by the Satellite Applications Catapult), is hosting a series of drop in sessions (3 Feb and 24 Feb) which will provide a brief overview of the paper, an example of how space is being used for materials R&D and provide a forum to ask questions on the paper and the process to contribute.

While we expect attendees to be researchers or technologists from academic, industry and/or other government/public sector bodies, you do not need to be already working in the space sector to join or provide a contribution. For example, we are interested from hearing what the opportunities could be from those:

• In the materials community who have not undertaken space related R&D that could support new innovations/discovery
• Those in the space sector on future materials challenges for space exploration

Friday 24 March - 12pm

Register here

Previous Events

Friday 3 February - 12pm

Friday 24 February - 12pm

  1. Robson Brown, K, Hodkinson, P, Smith, N, Hawkey, A, Velho, R & Carvil, P 2021, Why Space: The opportunity for Health and Life Science Innovation. UK Space Life and Biomedical Sciences (LABS) Association.