RAL Space receives share of £9m funding for climate monitoring instruments
14 May 2024



RAL Space is leading 4 out of 12 Earth observation projects receiving funding as part of a package funded by the UK Space Agency.




​The UK Space Agency has announced its largest investment into an early-stage technology programme to enhance the UK's Earth observation technologies, to improve how we use space to understand and protect our planet.

Delivered by the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI), which brings together UK expertise from industry and academia, the £9 million will support 12 projects that will enhance the ability to monitor Earth's atmosphere, and measure critical emissions.

One of these CEOI projects is in support of the Keystone mission, which was recently shortlisted in the latest round of the European Space Agency's Earth Explorers programme. Keystone would provide the first direct observations of atomic oxygen at 50-150km altitude to help scientists examine the impact of solar cycles and space weather on particular regions of our atmosphere.

Dr Jane Hurley, Head of Earth Observation and Atmospheric Science at RAL Space, says:

“Earth observation is a vitally important way for us to measure human impact on our planet, as well as monitoring climate, natural disasters, and weather. RAL Space has a strong heritage in developing novel instruments to meet scientific and societal needs, so it's fantastic to see four of our ongoing projects recognised with CEOI funding.

The diversity of these applications, from quantum sensing to millimetre-wave technology, really show the broad range of technology development we lead, and puts us in a brilliant position to grow the UK's Earth observation capabilities as part of the vision of the National Space Strategy."​

The RAL Space projects receiving funding are:

Cold Atom Interferometry Thermosphere Drag Measurement (CAITDM) (£1,000,000) -  RAL Space with support from University of Nottingham and Metamorphic Additive Manufacturing Ltd

CAITDM will use quantum technology to build a new generation of sensors that can accurately measure the density of the Earth's atmosphere. This will support better predictions of small satellite trajectories and re-entries. The project will build a fully functional breadboard to demonstrate the concept.

SOLSTICE: Solar Occultation Limb Sounding Transformative Instruments for Climate Exploration (£2,300,000) – RAL Space with support from Bright Ascension and Open Cosmos

SOLSTICE aims to improve monitoring of changes in the atmosphere using two instruments working together: HIROS is a thermal infrared spectrometer providing information on atmospheric transmission of gases, and HSDI is an imager for water vapour, aerosols and air pressure. This project will produce and test a representative payload model, validate its scientific accuracy and value, and mature the design to fit in a 0.5 Cubesat.

3.5 THz Receiver Breadboard for Upper Atmosphere Science (£250,000) - RAL Space with support from University of Leeds

This work focusses on further developing a 3.5 THz receiver for the Keystone mission dedicated to studying the poorly understood mesosphere and lower thermosphere of the atmosphere. Through a testing and development programme and integration of a commercial Schottky diode, the project will raise technological readiness level and validate the radio frequency, electronic and thermal performance of the instrument.

High-accuracy Magnetometer for Space Weather Instrumentation (HMSWI) (£65,000) - RAL Space with support from BGS, University of Strathclyde and Iota Technology Ltd

This project aims to bring together the functions of two types of magnetometer into one instrument, allowing for cost savings, improved data accuracy and an array of new applications for fields including space weather and Earth observation. The initial work will analyse the orbit and noise requirements as well as defining the magnetometer architecture, investigate the engineering implications and produce a feasibility assessment.​