Major projects mark first anniversary of Australia–UK Space Bridge

23 Feb 2022

February 23 marks one year since Australia and the United Kingdom signed the Space Bridge Framework Arrangement. The Arrangement signals greater cooperation between the two nations. Its goal: to generate investment opportunities and create jobs in both countries’ space industries.

Supported by Austrade, the Australian Space Agency, the UK Department for International Trade (DIT) and the UK Space Agency, the Space Bridge is already connecting UK and Australian companies.

This video highlights recent successes by Australian and UK companies in the space sector.

Linking the UK and Australian space industries

Just 3 months after the Space Bridge deal was signed, an agreement was struck between Australia’s LatConnect 60 and the UK’s Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL).

Under the partnership, LatConnect 60 agreed to provide high resolution optical data from the SSTL S1-4 Earth Observation (EO) satellite. This will bolster the business’ satellite imagery and data analytics capability in Australia.

More recently, Australia’s Geospatial Intelligence attracted interest from the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and UK Department of International Trade (DIT), following its involvement with the UK’s Gravity Challenge.

Geospatial Intelligence is now expanding into the UK. Its related company, SpatialApps (UK) is trialling a pandemic early warning system. Further growth has followed. The Geospatial Intelligence team has won additional contracts in India and other markets.

Australia’s space start-ups are also doing well. HEO Robotics uses existing optical satellites to conduct diagnostics on other satellites. The company has opened an office in the UK with support from Austrade and the UK’s DIT to capitalise on opportunities in the market.

Overseas investment in Australian space

On the investment side, British radiocommunications specialist Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station is set to build a major new ground station in Western Australia.

This will aid earth-space communications during space-exploration missions.

Fostering deeper space research collaboration

Separately, the Space Bridge facilitated the development of a UK–Australia space research grant under its Research and Education Pillar. Australia’s SmartSat CRC, the UK Science and Innovation Network and the UK Satellite Applications Catapult jointly contributed $500,000 to fund UK-Australian research projects.

In October 2021 five projects were selected to share in this investment. The areas covered include earth observation, agriculture, space communications and quantum technologies for space. These projects explore and advance satellite technologies for a range of uses:

  • Antarctic Sea ice detection
  • Plant breeding programs and agricultural yield forecasting
  • Preventing cyber-attacks on future financial encryption services
  • Improving the stability of next-generation satellite communication links under changing weather conditions
  • Establishing commercial opportunities for Earth Observation calibration and validation facilities for upcoming missions.

Sam Adlen, Chief Strategy Officer at Satellite Applications Catapult says that strong foundations have been laid.

‘The opportunity for space-enabled growth is only growing,’ he says. ‘The strong ties between the UK and Australia will enable the capacity and utility of the space bridge to grow significantly for the benefit of both countries and citizens globally.’

Carl Seubert, Chief Research Officer Industry Director at SmartSat CRC in Australia says he

is extremely pleased with the early advancements the teams have made. He points to the collaborations that have been established to advance space research.

'As well as making technological advancements, the formation of these teams under the Space Bridge Framework has assisted to strengthen relationships, increasing opportunities for connection and engagement across both space sectors and are an indication of more good things to come.’

Building cross-country capability

The Space Bridge team has arranged a series of virtual roadshows to help familiarise businesses in the UK and Australian space sectors with their respective capabilities and strengths.

Delivered in partnership with Australian states and territories and the UK’s devolved administrations and English regions, more than 1,000 participants registered to hear about the offerings of each of the 15 featured jurisdictions.

Following this, the UK DIT ran a Space Export Academy for UK businesses to help them understand how to work with Australia’s space sector. Austrade and the Australian Space Agency support the initiative.

The academy has given businesses fresh opportunities to meet Australian counterparts. This should trigger further partnership potential.

Austrade will be running a similar activity in 2022 targeted at Australian space companies with an interest in doing business in the UK.

Business can register for the Austrade information session on establishing business in the UK at: https://www.austrade.gov.au/Event/EstablishUK#/event