Early-stage studies into new flagship earth observation mission funded by new £15m government investment
25 Nov 2022



STFC RAL Space will receive almost £15m as part of a new government package supporting Earth observation (EO) science.


​​​​​Image of​ CO2 levels across the Earth, November 2022. Credit: National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO).


​The new funding will support four projects to be run and managed by RAL Space, including an early-stage study into a national flagship EO satellite mission and a new calibration​ facility for small satellites.

The investment comes as part of a wider £200m one-off package, announced this week, which the government says will protect the UK's EO industry against the impact of ongoing delays to UK participation in the EU Copernicus programme.

A key focus of the National Space Strategy, the UK is considered world-leading in the area of earth observation and has been producing EO data for the purposes of weather forecasting, agriculture and industry for over three decades.

Funded RAL Space projects –

EO Constellation for Marine and Climate Development Project​

The EO Constellation for Marine and Climate Development Project will fund early-stage studies into a new national flagship EO satellite mission to help address spiralling climate change and meet Net Zero targets. Working with government, academia and industry, the project will investigate the UK's requirements and develop a set of payload concepts to complement existing international satellites, bringing together all the partners required to design, build, launch and operate an ambitious new mission.

Small Satellite Calibration Facility​

The Small Satellite Calibration Facility will build a new national centre for testing and calibrating small, cube and nano satellites. The facility will support UK and international start-ups and SMEs by given them access to a suite of calibration services, lowering the barrier of entry to space, and giving them a competitive edge with improved data quality and more reliable missions.

UK/Australia EO AgroClimate Programme​

The UK/Australia EO AgroClimate Programme will bring together some of the best researchers in the UK and Australia to develop new solutions for monitoring and optimising agricultural productivity. The programme will help farmers in both countries to better forecast their crop yields, monitor the threats posed by pests and diseases, and improve their resilience to the damaging effects of climate change. 

Surface Temperature Radiometer Network​

The Surface Temperature Radiometer Network will build and deploy a network of autonomous radiometers to measure surface temperatures to a high accuracy. The new network will be used to confirm and validate data being collected by constellations of EO satellites, paving the way to more accurate weather and climate forecasts, and helping reaffirm the UK's position as a leader in the area of land and sea temperatures. ​​

RAL Space will also participate in an additional consortium project, in collaboration with the National Centre of Earth Observation and the National Physical Laboratory. The Earth Observation (EO) Data Hub will be a next generation platform that allows industry, academia and government to access and process EO data within a single portal. The hub will include EO data from a fragmented range of commercial and academic sources, making access simpler, and encouraging the development of new applications in industries as varied as finance, agriculture and carbon services. ​

RAL Space's projects will run alongside 14 others also funded by the new package, with the UK Space Agency, NERC and the MET Office also due to benefit from the new investment.​

Dr Sarah Beardsley, Director of RAL Space, said: 

“We're incredibly fortunate to have some of the world's finest EO scientists and engineers working in the UK – many of them here at RAL Space – and this new investment will really allow us to harness and expand the UK's world-leading expertise in earth observation.

“The new projects that we'll now deliver will help support the UK's growing EO industry, build even stronger international ties, and lower the barrier of entry for UK firms to develop their own next generation space missions."

George Freeman MP, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, said:

“These new investments will support the ongoing growth of the UK space and commercial satellite sector - creating new jobs around the UK from Cornwall to the North of Scotland - and securing UK leadership in space sustainability. They will put our scientists and engineers at the forefront of some of the world's most important missions and programmes which drive transformational innovation."​​