UK Science Minister, Sam Gyimah combined a visit to ECSAT and the Harwell Space cluster last Thursday with the opportunity to meet ESA Astronaut Tim Peake.
Tim Peake’s association with ECSAT goes back to its inauguration in July 2015, which he attended via video link. On this occasion he was present in person to join ESA Directors Magali Vaissiere and David Parker, together with the head of the UK Space Agency Graham Turnock and Policy Director Alice Bunn, in discussing the strategic opportunities for both the Telecommunication and Exploration programmes of ESA over the coming years.
During his visit the Minister announced the new Mars rover planned to be designed in Stevenage by Airbus following the award of a 3.9 million contract by ESA. He said, “This remarkable new project, which will see samples brought back from Mars to Earth for the first time ever, demonstrates Britain’s world-leading scientific and engineering innovation.”
The Minister also visited the UK’s national satellite test facility, across the road from ECSAT, where he and Tim Peake met with six companies that are developing cutting-edge products and services with the support of ESA and UKSA. Between them, MDA, Oxford Space Systems, Rezatec, Neptec, Lockheed Martin and Deimos represent both the upstream and downstream parts of the space sector and are a cross-section of more than 80 space-related companies within the fast-growing Harwell space cluster.
Tim Peake said: “This is an exciting new era where businesses and space agencies are working closer than ever before on ambitious missions to expand our knowledge of the Solar System and deliver benefits to people’s lives. The close collaboration between the UK and ESA will place Britain at the forefront of innovative missions to explore the Moon, Mars and beyond.”
The visit also marked the 70th anniversary of the NHS, coincident with which ESA and UKSA have launched a competition to search for high-tech solutions that apply space technology to healthcare, with a 4 million budget.