Space technology opportunities are to be opened up to emerging nations in a project between the UK and Mexico, led at the University of Strathclyde.
The programme will offer researchers, entrepreneurs and established space companies the prospect of gaining scientific insight or securing a new space market over short periods – of a few months or years – without the extensive investment required for a traditional space mission.
This will be achieved by building on the experiences of the development of UKube-1, the UK's first national CubeSat, which was launched in 2013 and was developed by Clyde Space with support from Strathclyde.
The new feasibility project, entitled NANOBED-MX: Mexico Nanosatellite Missions Laboratory, will be carried out in partnership with Clyde Space Ltd, the Satellite Applications Catapult, MXSpace, its affiliated companies, and Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua. The UK element of the project has now received a grant from the UK Space Agency, through its International Partnerships Space Programme.
Dr Malcolm Macdonald, Director of the Strathclyde-based Scottish Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications, said: "Space technology is a sector offering vast commercial opportunities but typically requires vast expenditure. As such, it has largely been dominated by nations which are prosperous or populous — or both — while in developing nations, space capability and related infrastructure may be less available or accessible.
"This programme is designed to enable the rapid realisation of projects; this will unlock new applications, present opportunities for wider international collaboration, remove barriers to accessing technology and knowledge, and engage with a new generation of engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs."
MXSpace has identified the NANOBED Missions Laboratory concept as a focal point for engaging with local technology suppliers, developers and end users. A resulting lead-in payload developer and mission application, SpaceCloud, has been identified for Mexico. The NANOBED Missions Laboratory supports future payloads and application development, with facilities at the Strathclyde-based Satellite Applications Catapult Missions Laboratory and at the Harwell Space Cluster in Didcot, Oxfordshire.
The funding will enable the UK-Mexican consortium to develop the NANOBED Missions Laboratory, taking into account the requirements of the nascent Mexican Space Industry, spearheaded by MXSpace, which will work with Clyde Space to integrate the NANOBED to the laboratory environment at Universidad Autonoma de Chihuahua.
The NANOBED Missions Laboratory will be used both for international collaboration with Strathclyde and for wider engagement in Mexico. The success of the collaborative project will be measured, among other benefits, by the creation of future UK export growth enabled by the development of Mexico's national space goals.