A deeper dive into our space research
What we don’t know about space yet, that void of knowledge, makes up one of the world’s most exhilarating areas of research. For over 60 years we’ve pioneered space research, having discovered the first known black hole in our galaxy. Leicester space pioneers have built over 90 instruments launched into space, including instrumentation on six live space missions - more than any other UK university. When it comes to planets, we were there for Europe’s first touchdown mission to Mars, and we’ll be there at Mercury in another 5 years, when BepiColombo (launched in 2018) arrives in orbit around our solar system’s innermost planet, transforming our understanding of its surface composition. One of its key instruments, the X-ray spectrometer, was designed and built at the University and will be the first imaging X-ray telescope sent to any planetary body.
But space power isn’t just above the clouds, it’s also about Earth observation. We host the National Centre for Earth Observation, leaders in satellite observations of climate, remote sensing of changing land surface and atmospheric composition.
Meanwhile satellite data is powering our research into autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles are rapidly becoming a reality due to the expected reduction of accidents due to human errors and their potential to provide wider access to mobility. Ensuring the quality, safety and reliability of these complex cyber-physical systems is vital, and the work at Leicester will help build public confidence in these systems.
Our researchers are developing a new app that uses satellite data to help manage long-term conditions, funded by the UK Space Agency in partnership with NHS England and the European Space Agency (ESA). The app – Personalised Space Technology Exercise Platform (P-STEP) – will provide guidance based on space data combined with artificial intelligence to deliver personalised, disease-specific exercise advice with pollution warnings at a staggering 10-metre resolution.
One of our most exciting adventures in space is actually right here, in Leicester. We’re leading the development of Space Park Leicester, a £100m world-leading cluster for innovative research and innovation in space and Earth observation. The new park will offer a world of opportunity for business, increasing space sector jobs in the UK by 185% by 2030. Space Park Leicester will draw on experience from industry and academia, all working together in one central location to uncover the truths of both space, and life on Earth. The high-tech facilities will be in use for research, development, manufacturing, satellite design and more. Ultimately, it will provide our students with an unparalleled experience, giving them the chance to work on space applications with some of the biggest companies on the planet.