09/09/2016

Deimos Space UK Ltd begins study of satellite launch from the UK

Deimos Space UK, together with partners Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), Firefly Space Systems and Scotland’s Highlands and Islands Enterprise, have been awarded a grant by the UK Space Agency to carry out an industrial research project to investigate the challenges associated with the introduction and operation of commercially viable small-satellite launch services from the UK.

The Space Innovation and Growth Strategy (IGS) sets out ambitious targets for the growth of the UK space sector, with ‘Access to Space’ being a key IGS theme. The UK has clearly stated its ambition to become a launching state with the long term goal of being able to support suborbital operations and orbital delivery of small satellites. The recently published UK National Space Policy states “In due course, Government intends to go further and launch small satellites from the UK”. The IGS goals and objectives are primarily commercial and economic, with the targeted growth expected to come from commercial sales (in this context, launches) rather than institutional or military contracts. It is therefore clear that any UK-based launch service must be commercially viable, offering a clear commercial advantage to customers who might otherwise, and currently must, launch their payloads from an overseas launch site.

Deimos Space UK and its project partners are analysing and quantifying the value of using an imported launch vehicle for a UK-based launch operation

Deimos Space UK and its project partners are analysing and quantifying the value of using an imported launch vehicle for a UK-based launch operation. We are identifying cost drivers and key launch site infrastructure, logistics and operational factors that could be used to shape a commercially optimised UK launch service. The project is establishing which orbits can be accessed, considering all performance and safety aspects, and is analysing and quantifying the costs of all launch-related activities, including those associated with infrastructure and support, transportation, export and customs. Another valuable output will be a set of recommendations, underpinned by robust analysis, for how a UK launch offering should be shaped in order to make it the most competitive and commercially viable offering possible. This should enable the UK to establish Europe’s first, and possibly only, orbital launch site.

Philip Davies, Managing Director of Deimos Space UK stated:

“Deimos Space is excited to lead this project to build the case for a UK vertical launch site in a way which will stand up to a detailed and thorough examination. We look forward to working with key industry partners, using our expertise in Space mission analysis to take forward the case for launch from the UK.”

Previous UK studies have established top level feasibility of a viable vertical launch site in Northern Scotland. Our project aims to address various topics and issues that have been identified as needing to be investigated and analysed further in order for the UK to commit to a UK launch facility.

satellite launch firefly space systems

Firefly launcher during stage separation © Firefly Space Systems

The consortium brings together four key organisations with valuable complementary interests:

  • Deimos Space UK, which has extensive experience and knowledge in launch trajectory analysis, safety and termination systems, architectures and approaches,
  • SSTL, the world’s leading small satellite manufacturer with over 30 years of small-satellite launch experience,
  • Firefly Space Systems, a US company who are developing a new small satellite launch vehicle that is a leading candidate to operate from the UK,
  • Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Scottish economic and community development agency covering the region where any vertical launch site in the UK would most likely be built, who can provide all of the vital local infrastructure and supply chain inputs.

The team is supplemented by a number of advisors with backgrounds and capabilities covering many of the key issues such as range safety certification, regulation, airspace management and meteorology.

Katherine Courtney, Interim Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency stated:

Deimos Space UK, together with partners Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), Firefly Space Systems and Scotland’s Highlands and Islands Enterprise, have been awarded a grant by the UK Space Agency to carry out an industrial research project to investigate the challenges associated with the introduction and operation of commercially viable small-satellite launch services from the UK.

“The government’s aim, as set out in the National Space Policy, is to support industry to open new markets by establishing a spaceport in the UK and to enable the UK space sector, valued at £11.8 billion in 2014, to grow to £40 billion by 2030. Low cost access to space is key to unlocking growth. We look forward to the technology and market insights these projects will deliver later this year – helping us get the policy right in this area.”

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