Bringing together UK excellence in satellite calibration
02 Oct 2017



Two world-leading UK scientific institutions have today joined forces to strengthen their support for the nation’s rapidly-growing space sector.

Dr Brian Bowsher, CEO STFC and Dr Peter Thompson, CEO NPL sign an agreement to bring together the two organisations' expertise.

​​​​Dr Brian Bowsher, CEO STFC and Dr Peter Thompson, CEO NPL sign an agreement to bring together the two organisations' expertise.

Credit: STFC RAL Space

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) set out their intentions to bring together the two organisations' expertise in satellite instrumentation calibration and measurement.

Long-term reliability of satellite instrumentation and repeatability of services are crucial to ensuring we can secure accurate and comparable data, in order to identify trends and changes over time. Space data is increasingly important across a range of scientific fields, from monitoring solar activity, measuring changes to our own planet, to understanding stars and galaxies.

The agreement demonstrates the opportunities for collaboration between NPL, the UK's National Measurement Institute, and STFC RAL Space, home to the UK Centre for Calibration of Satellite Instrumentation.

Today's agreement could include jointly developing and co-locating facilities for the calibration of satellite instrumentation and collaborations on measurement products, facilities and support services as part of the recently announced £99million National Satellite Testing Facility at RAL Space. It will also help develop skills across the two organisations as well as share space measurement technologies and services.

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed at an event at RAL Space by Dr Brian Bowsher, CEO of STFC and Dr Peter Thompson, CEO of NPL.

Dr Brian Bowsher, CEO of STFC said: “We are delighted to be working with such a centre of excellence as the NPL in furthering the advancement of satellite calibration. The satellite industry is thriving in the UK and we are proud to be at the forefront of this sector. By sharing our expertise and building on those strengths, we are putting the UK on the map as a global leader in satellite testing."

Dr Peter Thompson, CEO of NPL said: “The explosion of data from satellite based instrumentation is transforming every sector and promises great economic and social benefits. Good measurement is vital in delivering these, from creating new instrumentation and calibration technology to improve the accuracy of data collection, to providing traceability and standards to ensure data can be used and applied with confidence. By working more closely with STFC, we can further support the UK space industry in taking a world-leading role in satellite technology and services, and accelerating the impact they will have."

Dr Chris Mutlow, Director of STFC RAL Space said: “Both RAL Space and NPL have a proud heritage in satellite calibration, measurement and instrumentation development. This agreement will help us build on our expertise, sharing knowledge as well as access to our world class facilities. I look forward to the future innovations that co-operation with our new partners will bring."

The UK Centre for Calibration of Satellite Instrumentation at RAL Space, combines the strengths of UK industry and academia in calibration and validation of satellite instrumentation. It acts as a vehicle to further enhance commercial and scientific opportunities for the UK as a whole, and to strengthen its own expertise in satellite instrumentation calibration, validation and testing services. RAL Space scientists and engineers are currently playing a crucial role in the calibration of the Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer​ (SLSTR) on the ESA/EU Sentinel-3 mission. This instrument provides enhanced continuity in surface temperature measurements from earlier satellites.

For over 30 years, NPL has been active in the field of providing primary traceability to the International system of Units (SI) for Earth Observation and remote sensing technologies. NPL continues to take on international leadership in supporting the uptake of space-borne environmental and climate data through measurement science and innovation, reducing uncertainties in new technologies and services and disseminating its primary standards through a range of world-class laboratory and in-field services. 

The reliable references and calibrations that NPL and RAL Space provide are critical to the ongoing success of the UK space sector which is worth over £13.7bn and directly employs more than 38,000 people. The UK sector represents 6.5% of the global space economy with an ambition to capture 10% of an estimated £400bn global space industry by 2030.​​

For more information please contact: RAL Space Enquiries