Farnborough International Airshow: Space Day

31 July 2018

Farnborough International Airshow is the UK’s the biggest aerospace event of the year. With many announcements expected across the UK space industry, Spaceoneers attended the Space Day on 17 July 2018, which included a series of media interactive talks exploring a number of space topics in-depth, including among others the UK Space Agency, European Space Agency, NASA, alongside media and industry representatives.

Launch UK

As the UK has recently passed legalisation to facilitate and regulate commercial spaceflight through the Spaceflight Bill, the UK Space Agency and partners, together government and industry are seeking to enable satellite launches from the UK by 2020.

On the first day of the Farnborough International Airshow it was announced by the UK government that Lockheed Martin and Orbex are now investing in space launch operations and bringing innovative new technology to Britain. Under the plans, global space leader Lockheed Martin and innovative spaceflight company Orbex will launch rockets into space from the north coast of Scotland.

As a nation of innovators and entrepreneurs, we want Britain to be the first place in mainland Europe to launch satellites as part of our Industrial Strategy. The UK’s thriving space industry, research community and aerospace supply chain put the UK in a leading position to develop both vertical and horizontal launch sites.

“This will build on our global reputation for manufacturing small satellites and help the whole country capitalise on the huge potential of the commercial space age.”

– Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

In addition, Virgin Orbit formally signed an agreement with officials from Cornwall that would lead to missions of the company’s LauncherOne air-launch system flown out of Cornwall Airport Newquay.


Space and its Economic Benefits

The first interactive session focused on the economic power of technologies as seen by government and commercial entities with a roundtable consisting Jan Woerner, Director-General of ESA; Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator; Andy Green, President of UK Space (trade association) and Graham Turnock, CEO UK Space Agency, alongside journalists from the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times.

Asked about the benefits of space over the last 5, 10 or 15 years what more should be done, Bridenstine noted “success of the collaboration of the International Space Station” with so many nations being involved in such a huge project that enables us to test experiments in the unique microgravity environment. He described how it has helped change the perspective of our planet with its many wonderful images, as well as biological research such as DNA sequencing. He continued to talk about the ISS and how it is driving commercial companies to provide services through cargo and will soon enable people.

Woerner highlighted the geopolitical benefits of space in working across borders, as well as the many discoveries and science the space station has achieved. Asked “Do we do enough [to promote the benefits of space]?”. Woerner replied “we never do enough… And the benefit is beyond just an economic return.” He pointed out how the ISS alone has a return of 1.8. Beyond economics he described the “chain of motivation” where the effect of space is beyond just direct activities – “fascination – inspiration – motivation”. He said that “with space we can make the world better”.

Turnock described the many space applications through earth observation, telecommunication and GNSS such as weather forecasting, agriculture, atmospheric monitoring and navigation. He explained how space delivers tangible benefits to everyone, noting the Prosperity from Space report, where the UK Government aims to double the value of space to wider industrial activities from £250 billion to £500 billion.

“Space has and will continue to transform our lives.” – Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency

Green started with an anecdote of how he bought a cup of tea, spoke about his role in space industry and the response was “we don’t have a UK space industry do we?” He highlighted how media coverage like the previous day is really important. “We had announcements about launchers in Sutherland – with Lockheed Martin and Orbex – and about Virgin Orbit and Newquay. These things people can get their heads around. It is really important we get these key messages out there.” He stressed the importance of industry demonstrating to politicians the economic return of space and how it was great that the Prime Minister, Secretary of State and other ministers visited the Space Zone, committing themselves to further investment in space. “We are able to prove time after time that every £1 the UK government puts in there is a £7 to £9 return on investment”. He also stated the importance of showing the UK is a forward-looking nation: forward on science and working internationally.

“We are able to prove time after time that every £1 the UK government puts in there is a £7 to £9 return on investment”. – Andy Green, President of UKspace trade association

Satellite and the 5G revolution

Leaders of some of industry’s most disruptive companies such as Earth-i, OneWeb and Spire described the opportunities satellite technology and how the 5G revolution is attracting new private investment and technological innovation across the value chain.

Moderator and reporter, Peter B. De Selding introduced how satellites will play a bigger role, particularly in remote areas. He introduced the Satellite for 5G Initiative whereby ESA and the European Space Industry are focusing their efforts on 5G capability via satellites.

Antonio Franchi, Satellite for 5G Initiative added how ESA realised “there is a big digitalisation in industry and society going on” and how the agency is working with industry and partners. He said:“5G promises to deliver huge amount of bandwidth, anywhere at anytime”, being a great commercial opportunity. ESA is

Kieran Arnold, Director of Ubiquitous Connectivity at the Satellite Applications Catapult echoed how there are “a lot of business opportunities” to be made with 5G. He noted the Industrial Strategy heavily investing in 5G with the next wave of DCMS (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport). The UK Government’s “£200m investment in the next few years is driving the capability of 5G in the UK”.

Eric Béranger, CEO of OneWeb described how OneWeb is a privately-funded initiative with huge commercial prospects. “We see a lot of initiatives in various countries in order to support the development of the appropriations [of 5G].” He said “geography is no longer an issue” due to satellite infrastructure around the globe.

“Quality is about internet connectivity absolutely everywhere, anytime, for everybody, billions of devices all over the world and to deliver this 5G needs absolute ubiquity. Ubiquity means in the terrorities, it means at sea, it means in air and it needs low latency.”

– Eric Béranger, CEO of OneWeb

Introducing Peter Platzer, CEO of Spire, De Selding noted how the company’s first four ADS–B (automatic dependent surveillance — broadcast) equipped LEMUR-2 satellites entered orbit just 48 hours prior to the Space Day, adding to Spire’s growing constellation of satellites. As Spire’s focus is primarily on earth observation data and satellites, he asked what Spire’s role could be in terms of autonomous vehicles, transportation and logistics. Platzer highlighted how “disturbances in the atmosphere drive 90% of the errors in satellite navigation” and how it can narrow down the perturbation, improving the accuracy of the location.

“Disturbances in the atmosphere drive 90% of the errors in satellite navigation” – Peter Platzer, CEO of Spire

Finally, Ignacio Sanchis, CCO of Hispasat spoke of its project that will make Barcelona a hub for 5G testing in Europe, and how it is enabling growing connectivity around the world.

Changing Space

Woerner spoke heavily about Space 4.0 and spoke again of the “paradigm shift of motivations” towards information, innovation, cooperation and digitisation. On the future role of space agencies, he talked about ESA’s current public-private partnerships, working towards being a broker, enabler of new technologies and mediator of space activities. As space becomes ever more accessible to commercial companies he called for greater participation and diversity to enable spin-in and spin-off technology between space and non-space industries.

European Space Agency and the Space 4.0 Initiative. Credit: ESA.

Dr David Parker, ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration continued to talk about this shift, stating the Commercial partnership programme and how the European Space Agency can support industry to “deliver their goals and their ideas for commercial exploration.

With greater access to low-earth orbit he cited how “the ICE Cubes Service is the first European commercial laboratory aboard the International Space Station. You can control it from your laptop computer.”