Space Park Leicester has won £500,000 towards building a new centre dedicated to exploring deep space.
The new Wolfson Deep Space Centre will build links between business and universities to study some of the biggest challenges in space exploration – from powering longer missions without solar power to getting more spacecrafts into low orbit.
The funding has come from the Wolfson Foundation, which was set up to support education, science and the arts.
It will be part of the £100 million Space Park Leicester, currently going up close to the National Space Centre.
Estimates suggest the space park could contribute £750 million a year to the economy, lowering the cost of the manufacture and launch of satellites and as an international centre for processing the data they provide.
Led by the University of Leicester, it could eventually lead to 2,500 jobs and attract other high tech businesses to the city.
Grant Bourhill, chief executive of science parks and interim director research and enterprise at the University of Leicester said: “Receiving the award from the Wolfson Foundation is a huge boost and adds to the growing high profile names associated with the Space Park.
“The Wolfson funds will allow us to increase our reach within space exploration – specifically deep space – and foster all-important collaborations between businesses and universities. Crucially it will further boost our activities in lowering the cost to access space.”
The first stages of Space Park Leicester will open in 2021, and will bring together academia and industry. Partners include Leicester City Council and the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership.
Dr Nigel Bannister, associate professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “Missions to explore the planets are expensive, so they don’t happen very often.
“For example, our knowledge of the ice giants Uranus and Neptune is based on just a few hours of data taken as the Voyager-2 spacecraft flew past in the 1980s, carrying technology developed in the 1970s.
“The Wolfson Deep Space Centre will develop new technologies and methods, and adapt existing ones, to enable smaller, lower cost spacecraft to be used in deep space – to expand our exploration of the solar system, to visit planets more often and in ways not possible before, and provide an opportunity for the UK to become a leader in a new generation of space exploration mission.”
Space Park Leicester going up with the city’s Museum of Technology behind Professor Richard Ambrosi, professor of space instrumentation and space nuclear power systems in the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “The Wolfson Centre has the potential to transform how we access space for scientific missions.
“Through our close links with industry, agencies and international partners, it has the potential to open new paths to low earth orbit, the lunar surface and deeper into the solar system.
“We are incredibly grateful to the Wolfson Foundation for their recognition of the world-leading research taking place at the University of Leicester.
“Their support, along with that of other partners, will enable us to develop innovative technologies and methods to transform the way we explore space in the future.”
Paul Ramsbottom, chief executive of the Wolfson Foundation said: “The Wolfson Foundation is a charity that funds buildings and equipment that support the highest quality research.