Headlines > News > BNSC - New space age for Britain, Graduate Internships, ESA's 'time machine'

BNSC - New space age for Britain, Graduate Internships, ESA's 'time machine'

Published by Rob Goldsmith on Fri Sep 18, 2009 6:28 pm via: source
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A new space age for Britain beckons as BIS launches consultation on the funding and management of UK civil space activities

In the week the whole world celebrates the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landings in 1969, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is beginning a consultation which aims to thrust the UK space sector forward for the next 40 years and beyond.

Lord Drayson, Minister for Science and Innovation, will formally kick off the consultation at the London launch of a new European Space Agency (ESA) facility at Harwell, on Wednesday 22 July. The consultation will seek views on whether the current organisation which oversees space in the UK, the British National Space Centre (BNSC), is the best funding structure to meet the challenges of the future and deliver the greatest benefit to the country.

The BNSC has helped the UK to build a hugely successful sector which is second only to the USA in space science, contributes £6.5bn a year to the UK economy and supports 68,000 jobs.



However, as the world becomes increasingly dependent on advances in space science and in order to safeguard the UK’s “critical mass” of skills and expertise, today’s consultation is seeking views on the appetite for a single agency to better co-ordinate the UK’s civil space strategy.

The Minister for Science and Innovation, Lord Drayson said:

“Space is so important to our future. The UK space industry has thrived under the BNSC, but the Apollo 11 anniversary demonstrates the need for ambition, purpose and a clear sense of commitment.

“We now have to look ahead to the next 40 years. I want this consultation to be inspired and influenced by this idea. So we can provide the best support to our world-leading space sector. So it can continue to flourish and when the economic growth takes hold, make an even bigger impact on the UK economy and our lives.”

A thriving space sector will play an important role in building Britain’s future and the recession busting trends of the space industry is a testament to the nature of business that will generate the jobs of the future.

Space is a key part of the global communications network, driving globalisation and providing new business opportunities. The UK’s leading satellite infrastructure will also support sustainable development, help protect our oceans and fisheries, and allow us to predict and help when natural disasters strike throughout the world.

Britons benefit from space technology every day – often without realising it. Some advances are obvious, such as satellite communications, television broadcasting. Mobile networks and accurate GPS equipment in cars. Others are more obscure, such as timing networks underpinning telephone and power grids.

Space applications can provide solutions for developing policy and providing services, for example, the Digital Britain initiative which will use satellites to achieve its goal of total UK broadband coverage by 2012.

The 12-week consultation is starting on the day the European Space Agency (ESA) lands in Harwell, Oxfordshire – opening its first facility in the UK.

To participate go to the consultation document for further information.

The ESA facility will focus on three areas – adapting space data and images to create new everyday applications; climate change modelling that uses space data; and developing technologies such as novel power sources and innovative robotics which could be used to explore the Moon and Mars.

Through the new ESA facility and the International Space Innovation Centre which will be created in Harwell, the UK will maximise its world-leading strengths in these areas and enable our space industry to win a larger share of the global market in space systems, services and applications.

The Government also recently announced the Space Innovation and Growth Team which offers a huge opportunity for the government to work alongside industry to define a clear plan – a 20 year vision – and come up with a strategy for the future growth of the UK space industry.

The Minister for Science and Innovation, Lord Drayson, added:

“Britain is undergoing a space renaissance. We must build on this to strengthen our outstandingly successful space programme. I hope this consultation will help us establish the infrastructure we need to take UK space into a new age.”

Are you a recent graduate interested in an internship with the BNSC?

We’re now advertising through the Graduate Talent Pool for someone to join us for 2-3 months to develop our learning zone.

Graduate Talent Pool is designed to help new and recent graduates gain real work experience. It makes finding, applying for and starting an internship as easy as possible.

The service is backed by employers up and down the country, in the public, private and third sectors. Over time, it’s expected that there will be thousands of internship places posted on the site.

All 2008 and 2009 Graduates from UK universities are eligible to apply for Graduate Talent Pool internships if they are from countries within the European Economic Area (EEA) (which includes all EU countries plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland.

The internships offered on Graduate Talent Pool are based primarily in England. Visit the ‘Go Wales’ website for work placements in Wales.

More ways to kickstart your career

In a difficult job market, it’s more important than ever to look at all the options that could help improve your employability. As well as internships, options for graduates include:

  • postgraduate study
  • setting up your own business
  • volunteering
  • teaching through the Teach First programme
  • short Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs)

Find out more about the Graduate Talent Pool and the BNSC opportunity.

ESA’s ‘time machine’ takes first glimpse into the past

‘First Light’ results confirm Planck spacecraft is ready to start its exploration of the Universe’s birth.

A map of the whole sky at optical wavelengths Credit: ESA, LFI & HFI Consortia (Planck)

A map of the whole sky at optical wavelengths Credit: ESA, LFI & HFI Consortia (Planck)

The Planck space observatory, ESA’s mission to study the early Universe, has successfully completed its initial test survey of the sky, confirming that both of the scientific instruments and the sophisticated cooling system, all of which the UK played a key role in building, are working well. Following the successful survey, Planck has now embarked on its 15 month mission to map the structure of the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation (CMB) – the relic radiation from the Big Bang.

The ‘first light’ survey, which started on the 13th August and was a two-week period during which Planck surveyed the sky continuously, produced maps of a strip of the sky, one for each of Planck’s nine frequencies. The plane of our own Milky Way galaxy can be seen running across the middle of the image, and is visible in the Planck data as the bright red regions. Away from the plane, the tiny fluctuations in the CMB can shine through, and these are the main target of the Planck mission.

The properties of the tiny fluctuations in the CMB provide information about the earliest moments of the Universe’s existence and how it evolved to become the Universe we see today. Planck is looking with finer resolution and greater sensitivity than previous satellites, and will allow the details of the Universe’s age and composition to be calculated more precisely than ever before.

By observing at all 9 frequencies, Planck can separate the CMB from the light emitted by the Galaxy at the same frequencies. As a result, Planck will make unprecedented observations of our own Galaxy, detecting and characterising both gas and dust. Having maps at all nine frequencies allows the individual sources of microwave light to be distinguished better than ever before.

Professor George Efstathiou of the University of Cambridge and UK Principal Investigator for Planck said, `We are thrilled that Planck is working so well. Scientists in the UK were involved in building the two focal plane instruments on Planck and also critical parts of the sophisticated cooling system. We have now begun scientific analysis of the beautiful data from Planck and are looking forward to finding out new information on the beginnings of space and time as we know it.’

Professor Richard Davis of Manchester University and principal investigator of Planck’s UK-built LFI instrument, said, “In the 16 years since Planck’s development started, this is the most exciting time. The wonderful thing is that Planck from its vantage point one million miles from Earth is now producing images of the creation of the Universe, the so-called Big Bang, with a clarity never seen by mankind.”

The Planck satellite was launched along with the Herschel satellite on 14th May 2009 from Europe’s spaceport at Kourou in French Guiana on an Ariane 5 rocket. During its 6 week journey to its observation point around “L2″, 1.5 million km (nearly 1 million miles) from Earth, the scientific instruments were cooled to extremely low temperatures, making Planck the coldest object in space at just 0.1° above absolute zero (-273.15°C). It took around 6 weeks for Planck to cool down to these low temperatures, after which a further 6 weeks were spent calibrating the instruments. The UK’s cryogenic cooler technology is a critical part of this achievement.

Dr David Parker, Director of Space Science at the British National Space Centre which coordinates the UK’s space programme said “Planck is already a stunning technical achievement; now we look forward to using this cosmic time machine to allow us to probe the ancient Universe in all its mystery and glory”.

Routine operations started as soon as the First Light Survey was completed, and surveying will now continue for at least 15 months without a break. In approximately 6 months time, the first all-sky map will be assembled.

Within its allotted operational life of 15 months, Planck will be able to gather data for two full independent all-sky maps. To fully exploit the high sensitivity of Planck, the data will require a great deal of delicate adjustments and careful analysis. It promises to contain a treasure trove of data that will keep both cosmologists and astrophysicists busy for decades to come.

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