New “beam-hopping” satellites which will be able to switch which part of the world they cover are being developed by UK space tech companies.
The satellites’ beam jumping abilities will enable them to respond to surges in demand caused by emergencies such as natural disasters.
They will remotely direct beams to boost coverage in certain locations, such as areas of high usage where the network is struggling to cope with demand.
Led by global satellite communications network OneWeb, the group has received more than £32 million of UK Government funding from the UK Space Agency, via the European Space Agency’s Sunrise Programme, for a demonstration satellite due for launch in 2022.
Edinburgh-based company Celestia UK has received £4.4 million of this funding to reduce the project’s carbon footprint and increase the efficiency of the network.
UK Government Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “From helping during a disaster to providing broadband on planes, this amazing technology will show how next-generation 5G connectivity can benefit all of us on Earth.
“It is fantastic to see some of our finest space tech companies joining forces on this exciting project which will put the UK at the forefront of satellite communications technology.”
Figures released by the UK Space Agency show a rise in the number of space-related companies and jobs in Scotland’s growing space sector.
In 2018/19, the number of space companies in Scotland rose from 132 to 173, and jobs from 7,555 to 7,703 according to the latest Size and Health of the UK Space Industry report.
UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said: “The space sector is thriving in Scotland and right across the UK – developing innovative technologies, providing highly-skilled jobs and inspiring our next generation of scientists.
“It’s brilliant to see space companies across the country joining forces to develop this revolutionary satellite, which will benefit lives around the world.
“The UK Government is dedicated to securing the UK’s position at the forefront of the global space sector and Scotland is at the heart of this ambition.”
OneWeb currently has 182 satellites, with another launch of 36 satellites scheduled for May 27.
Jose Alonso, president of Celestia UK, said: “The business opportunity that OneWeb and UK Space Agency have presented to Celestia UK in the context of the Sunrise Programme is outstanding.”