Space scientists look to face down climate change

Two pioneering projects led by space scientists at the University of Leicester have been awarded a share of research funding by the UK Space Agency. 

Supported by the Space Research and Innovation Network for Technology (SPRINT), the government has awarded a cash injection to five projects specifically designed to bring together UK business expertise with universities to help build space solutions to global problems.

One Leicester-based study will use satellite analytics to track the greenhouse gas and pollution emissions of shipping fleets, ushering in a new approach that could help shipping companies to face down climate change. Another project will look to improve the accuracy of clean room monitoring, which is of critical importance to equipment used in the space industry.

Science Minister, Amanda Solloway, said:

“The UK’s space sector is flourishing and it is vital we give our most innovative space businesses and universities the right support to collaborate, share best practice and drive forward new ideas that could help enrich all our lives.

“Today’s funding will provide lift off to some of the country’s most ambitious space collaborations, accelerating potentially game-changing technologies that will help the UK respond to global challenges such as cutting carbon emissions.

“The UK Space Agency funding will see the national Space Research and Innovation Network for Technology (SPRINT) support the new space projects, with industry working alongside scientists from the University of Southampton, University of Edinburgh and University of Leicester.”

Professor Martin Barstow, Leader of the SPRINT project and Director of Strategic Partnerships for Space Park Leicester, said:

“We appreciate the vote of confidence for SPRINT that the UK Space Agency has given in making this funding award.

“We are very grateful to the Agency for providing this new support for SPRINT, which allows us to support more companies in their development journey.”

Both projects form part of the wide-ranging work to be undertaken at Space Park Leicester, which is a partnership between the University of Leicester, Leicester City Council and the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP).

The world-leading cluster for innovative research, enterprise and education in space and Earth observation will provide state-of-the-art facilities for scientists, researchers and engineers as well as unmatched opportunities for collaboration.

SPRINT provides unprecedented access to university space expertise and facilities to help businesses develop new commercial products.

The scheme has previously supported 87 collaborative projects with 70 companies, developing space hardware or using space-enabled data and transferring space know-how and expertise to develop products destined for non-space use.

The two new SPRINT project collaborations being undertaken at the University of Leicester and supported by the UK Space Agency, are:

Redshift Associates Ltd – University of Leicester

This collaboration will develop analytics to track the carbon and pollution emissions of ships, with a new approach to establish emission audits of shipping fleets and their individual vessels. The project builds upon previous work developing analytics solutions for ports and harbours, extending this to coastal and international waters.

XCAM – University of Leicester

Critical equipment for use in the space industry is often built in clean rooms to make sure it is not contaminated with small particles. Cleanliness is vital because if equipment is contaminated it might fail completely or not operate as it was designed to do.

This project uses a novel machine learning solution to improve the accuracy of clean room monitoring, and to efficiently report problems in real time. In addition, this solution will be used to monitor potential contamination of sensitive equipment during the launch of spacecraft, which is something that has never been done before.