Government backs ground-breaking space technology to tackle climate change


Trailblazing space technology that will help tackle climate change and predict global disasters using satellites is receiving new funding from the UK Space Agency.

Eleven UK organisations have been awarded a share of just under £7 million of government funding to put into action the latest advances in space innovation. The majority of the projects focus on climate change or environmental management, with others designed to secure our telecommunication systems and protect digital infrastructure against cyber-attacks.

Projects receiving the cash boost include Global Satellite Vu Ltd, which will build a compact high-resolution infrared camera for satellites to measure thermal emissions from our homes, schools and places of work, helping to improve energy efficiency. The Open University in Milton Keynes will develop the mission concept for “TreeView”, a forestry and management tool that will support a nature-based solution to tackling climate change by monitoring the health of trees from space.

Two other projects include Quantum Accelerometer Climate Explorer (Q-ACE), Thales Alenia Space, Reading, which has received £345,032 and Hyperspectral Microwave Sounder Constellation of Nanosatellites for Climate change And Mitigation (HYMS CONCAM), STFC RAL Space, Oxfordshire  which has received

The Quantum Accelerometer Climate Explorer (Q-ACE) mission will bring together the University of Birmingham and Teledyne e2v’s cold atom interferometry technology with Thales Alenia Space’s new revolutionary Very Low Earth Orbit ‘SkimSat’ satellite platform. The work will help to develop the Q-ACE mission that will measure the density of the Earth’s thermosphere and provide data that will help better understand climate predictions.

As average global temperatures rise, hazards such as heatwaves and floods grow in frequency and severity, and chronic hazards intensify, such as drought and rising sea levels. Improved observations of our weather systems and more accurate forecasts are essential for our understanding, planning, and mitigation of extreme events. STFC RAL Space is developing a new small satellite observation tool using microwave sensors that will enhance our ability to monitor our planet’s increasing weather variability. These observations will support meteorological services to deliver accurate and timely weather forecasts that will enhance our ability to react to climate change.

Science Minister George Freeman said: “Satellites in space are helping us solve some of the most significant challenges we face, from climate change to cyber attacks, and through the National Space Strategy we are putting the UK at the forefront of unleashing these innovations.

“Whether it’s monitoring greenhouse gas emissions or supporting increased tree planting, this new funding will take game-changing ideas from the UK space sector and our brilliant scientists, and turn them into reality.”

The funding comes from the UK Space Agency’s National Space Innovation Programme (NSIP) and has been announced as the UK hosts the COP 26 climate talks in Glasgow. Space is playing an essential role in the fight against climate change, with satellites collecting half of the 56 types of data we need to measure and understand climate change.

This £7 million in funding is in addition to £7 million provided last year which was to support the projects through their development phase. The new funding ranges from between £157,000 and £1 million per project and will allow the organisations to take their projects to the next stage and implement their innovative ideas.

The government recently launched the National Space Strategy which outlines the long-term plans to grow the UK space sector and make Britain a science and technology superpower, including building on manufacturing and technology capacity, attracting investment and working internationally.