The UK Space Agency is investing £1.5 million into refuelling satellites in space, to extend their life and reduce the amount of space debris.
There are now around 37,000 pieces of space debris in orbit measuring more than 10cm, and an estimated one million pieces sized 1-10cm. With increasing numbers of satellites being launched, the UK is taking leadership on this global issue.
An additional £2 million will be used to upgrade the Satellite Applications Catapult’s In-Orbit Servicing and Manufacturing (IOSM) research facility at the Westcott Space Cluster in Aylesbury.
UK Space Agency head of space sustainability Ray Fielding said: “Until recently, satellites have been designed as one-shot items: non-refuellable with mission lifespans coming to an end when the satellite can no longer manoeuvre effectively.
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“This package of funding shows the UK Space Agency is leading work to develop UK capabilities in performing in-orbit tasks, such as refuelling, and demonstrating leadership in more sustainable space operations.
“Facilities like the IOSM centre at Westcott will support the UK’s ambition to become a leading nation in IOSM within the next decade.”
Minister for space Andrew Griffin commented: “Tackling space debris and maintaining ease of navigation in space is vital to allowing future exploration and protecting the everyday services we all rely on, from location and financial services to weather forecasting and broadband.
“To ensure that long-term sustainability, we are funding new technologies for satellite refuelling, and upgrading this important national facility at Westcott to help bring innovations to market faster, in turn growing our economy.”