The European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT) is ESA’s newest facility and its first in the United Kingdom.
It is based at the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire, also known as the UK Space Gateway. First opened in 2009, ECSAT has a focus on telecommunications and business applications but also supports teams working in climate change, technology and science.
Activities at ECSAT
The Telecommunications and Integrated Applications directorate focuses on boosting innovation to keep European and Canadian industry at the leading edge of the highly competitive global market for satellite communications and applications.
ECSAT is the headquarters of ESA’s programme of Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES), with staff from all departments collaborating with their colleagues at ESA’s technical heart, ESTEC, in the Netherlands.
In addition to support for the development of satellite communications products, emphasis is put on the development of new satellite-based services and applications for a wide range of down-to-Earth markets.
In addition, new satellite, ground infrastructure and product developments are initiated through public–private partnerships with world-class satellite operators, with some of the resulting projects being run at ECSAT.
The Earth Observation Climate Office manages the Climate Change Initiative programme, which develops Essential Climate Variable datasets. This supports the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process by furthering our understanding of Earth’s climate and contributing to the global observing system. It engages external parties in use of the datasets, and liaises with international climate research communities and programmes on their user needs for climate data from space.
Exploration activities at ECSAT include the Harwell Robotics and Autonomy Facility (HRAF) initiative; a Curation Facility working with analogue samples in preparation for the eventual reception, handling and curation of extraterrestrial material; and the development and exploitation of exploration technologies, including concepts at low technology readiness levels and those with potential for non-space application.
Technology and Quality Management support ESA’s Technology Research and General Support Technology Programmes in the UK. Special attention is given to seeking out cross-cutting and game-changing technologies and approaches, which is exemplified by the ESA–RAL Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory.
ECSAT is built around and draws benefit from the Open Campus ethos at Harwell, involving cooperation with organisations located on or linked to the site. This includes a fast-growing space cluster that now boasts more than 75 space-related organisations; and an even larger Life Sciences cluster that addresses crossovers between Life Sciences, the physical sciences facilities at Harwell and the space sector.
As with all ESA centres, ECSAT works with communities in all Member States of ESA. In addition, it is helping to move ESA and the UK closer together, by keeping links with the UK Space Agency as well as with space and non-space communities both on campus and throughout the UK.
The ESA Business Incubation Centre (BIC) UK complements ESA’s presence on the campus. The centre is designed to nurture new companies as they turn technology transfer ideas emanating from the space sector into viable businesses. To date, 60 companies have graduated from ESA BIC UK, with around 10 new ones joining each year.