In the week the world celebrated the anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969, the new ESA facility at Harwell was formally opened at a London event on 22 July.
The ESA facility will focus on three areas: ‘integrated applications’, which is the combined use of different space and terrestrial technologies, data and infrastructures to create new everyday applications; climate change modelling that uses data from space; and developing technologies such as novel power sources and innovative robotics which could be used to explore the Moon and Mars.
Martin Ditter, ESA’s Harwell Project Manager, said: “ESA wants to try new and innovative ways of working at Harwell, with the objective of faster and cheaper technology developments. For example, special teams of scientists and engineers from across ESA Member States may spend short periods of time working together at Harwell on ‘collocated focused projects’, using the skills and resources on site.”
ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain said: “It is testament to the expertise and skills of the UK space workforce that ESA has chosen the UK for the location of its latest facility. This new facility will contribute to Europe’s outstandingly successful space programme and cement the role of the UK within ESA and of ESA within the UK, helping us work together at international level to help the world face the challenges of the future.
“Thanks to the continuous support of all its Member States, ESA is at the leading edge of space science in the world, as demonstrated by the recent launch of the two observatories Herschel and Planck, which will bring greater understanding of the origins of the Universe. ESA is also a leader in the science of Earth and its environment, as seen in the launch this year of three satellites all dedicated to delivering data that will allow a better understanding of the mechanisms of climate change.
“Progress in science and technology provides the foundations for the delivery of new services to citizens on Earth and is a powerful factor for innovation and economic growth. It is good news for all ESA Member States that the UK is willing to be a driver of such innovation and growth in the space sector.”
Following negotiations between ESA, the UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and the British National Space Centre, the facility at Harwell will initially comprise a small number of staff to be located in existing buildings. As the facility grows, additional specialised facilities may be built and included in an overall International Space Innovation Centre.