Even though Britain is invested in supporting European Space Programs, allocating £374 million annually to ESA projects, it also invests in its domestic projects and companies. In this article, we are going to look at the best British Space Exploration Companies and some UK space news behind the top companies pushing the entire industry forward.
Modern Aerospace Companies’ Background
When we talk about space exploration, we often think about the 20th-century space race between the USA and USSR. No doubt, this competition contributes to many technological advancements we see today. Technology from the 20th-century space race era has changed the world and future aerospace companies forever.
At first, both countries were focused on developing only nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Thanks to rapid advancements in rocket technology, Soviet Union became the first country to send a spacecraft that successfully orbited our planet. This same country will later go on to sending the first human into space back in 1969.
To keep up with this race, the US had to do something huge. And this is when USA President Nixon invited Francis Thomas Bacon, a British engineer, to develop fuel cells that will later be used in Apollo 11. Still, these cells are referred to as Bacon cells which produce continuous energy by consuming hydrogen and oxygen.
After Apollo 11’s successful launch, President Nixon publicly credited Francis Thomas Bacon for Apollo’s mission success. Later on, Great Britain would go on to launch their spacecraft, becoming the third space-faring nation worldwide.
In retrospect, many private space exploration companies started their operations in Great Britain, including Inmarsat and Surrey Satellite Technology, among others.
What are some of the most popular UK Space Industry Companies?
Unlike popular belief, there are many space technology companies in Great Britain. First, we have 4Links, a spacecraft communications company, which started its operations back in 2000. It engineers and manufactures SpaceWire test equipment and IP products. It also has many joint projects with NASA, JAXA, and the ESA.
Then we have a Guildford-based company Earth-I. This aerospace company specializes in developing imagery equipment that is ideal for taking pictures in the forest, near ports, construction sites, farms, deserts, and big cities. This company’s main goal is to make collecting Earth Observation data easier.
As far as maintaining million-dollar satellites is concerned, you need the right technology that allows you to go into space to position, rearrange, and monitor every asset you have in orbit. Many aerospace companies today use drones to provide last-mile logistic support to other private companies.
Universities, as well as research institutes, are both benefiting from sending small satellites into space. And this is where Geomatic Ventures Ltd (GVL), governed by the University of Nottingham, comes into play. This company collects and delivers data on ground motion. This data is later used for ensuring environmental safety.
When it comes to deep space communication, Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd is a reliable aerospace company. Their observatory is located in the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall. It is a pioneer when it comes to communication and deep space missions. This space exploration company is partnering with SSTL and ESA for launching a lunar satellite that will carry multiple lunar CubeSats.
70% of our planet’s surface is covered in water. But how much do we know about these vast and deep blue oceans? Since its inception back in 2014, Ocean Mind has been trying to help governments and regulators understand illegal and unregulated fishing in coastal areas. But since then, the company has started helping the government to come up with more solid policies and oversee seafood supply chains.
Not all companies have a separate space exploration department in place. But there are times when companies might consider launching their satellites into space. Do they hire in-house experts or outsource the entire project?
This is the gap that Open Cosmos fulfills. This aerospace company is based in Harwell, Oxfordshire. They provide simple consultations and suggestions to any private company that needs it. This company aims to decentralize space exploration. Starting from setting an objective for space missions to filling out all necessary legal paperwork, Open Cosmos will take care of it all for you.
Next on our list, we have an aerospace company that specifies building satellites of different shapes and sizes. Oxford Space Systems, a space company that manufactures new antennas and other satellite components, has many million-dollar contracts with companies from Great Britain, USA, and different parts of Asia.
Are you into super-speed space travel? If yes, then you will love what Reaction Engines is doing. Since it was founded back in 1989, this space exploration company has been working to develop a hypersonic propulsion system. They already have a prototype which they call the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE™). This technology will allow space vehicles to travel five times the speed of sound.
Before we move on to the next section of this article, here is another UK aerospace company — Skyrora. This company is based in Edinburgh and London. It aims to meet the ever-increasing demand for small and affordable launchers.
UK Space Companies Vs. Space Companies from other Countries
Despite a vast number of UK Space Satellite companies, there is one area where they lag behind other developed nations. And that is successfully launching space vehicles into space. The United Kingdom has experience in developing and manufacturing space vehicles. But they do not have much experience when it comes to launching them.
At present, only 5% of all satellites orbiting our planet are registered in Great Britain. Moreover, the UK has not launched a spacecraft on its own since early 1971.
However, things have changed. Currently, British space companies are one of the most advanced enterprises around the world. To date, this sector employs more than 40,000 people and generates annual revenue of 15 billion pounds every year. Moreover, the UK’s Space Exploration sector contributes £300 billion annually to GDP.
According to the UK Government agenda, it wants to develop all necessary infrastructure to become the go-to place for small rocket launches in all of Europe. Currently, the international launch market sits at £400bn. The UK has set out long-term plans to claim 10% of this market by 2030.
Recently, the UK Government sanctioned Lockheed Martin transfer to Shetland Space Centre on the Scottish Island of Unst. Why did they take this decision? Well, the new spaceport is closer to the northern latitude. This is why spacecraft can reach polar orbits much quicker. Also, as this area is far away from heavily populated areas and near the sea line, scientists can conduct experiments without any major safety concerns.
The UK government has allocated a huge sum of money for developing new spaceports across Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
This info is just a brief overview of what is going in the UK space sector, with more exciting events coming our way. Which of these space company facts were new to you?
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