Aerospace & Defence

C-LEO: £60M for innovative satellite constellation ideas

28th March 2024
Sheryl Miles

Up to £60 million is available for innovations that will help boost the UK’s satellite communications sector, following the record number of global satellite launches in 2023. 

The UK Space Agency’s Connectivity in Low Earth Orbit (C-LEO) programme was highlighted in the recent Spring Budget, with the Chancellor confirming that up to £160 million will be invested in UK expertise through the programme over the next four years.

The UK has a rich heritage in satellite design, spacecraft manufacturing, and the operation of large satellite constellations, but this new government funding is crucial to maintaining the UK’s competitive edge during a period of rapid change and growth for the global space sector.  

A new record was set in 2023, with more than 2,900 satellites launched successfully into orbit, and the vast majority of these satellites operate as part of commercial constellations which will continue to grow rapidly.  

This represents a major opportunity for the UK space industry to benefit from high-value contracts in the global supply chain for satellite constellations, and to play a leading role in the long-term growth of the satellite communication sector. 

Andrew Griffith MP, Minister for Space at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said: “From super accurate navigation, future generations of mobile connections, to better access to healthcare, satellite communications is opening doors around the world. 

"As part of our UK space programme, we are making available up to £60 million to back world-class UK teams in seizing those opportunities.”  

Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: ““The UK is already home to some of the world’s most innovative leaders in satellite communications technologies and expertise, but continued growth requires sustained and strategic investment. 

“This major new funding allows us to provide additional support, signalling the UK’s long term commitment to the satellite communications sector and helping to bring its most ambitious projects to market.” 

The new funding can be used for research and development projects to build the capabilities of satellite constellations, making them more efficient at processing data in space and improving the services they offer to customers on Earth.

Advancing these communications services is critical to the success of emerging innovations – such as autonomous vehicles and healthcare deliveries via drone – and will ultimately give the UK space sector a competitive edge in the rapidly growing global market of low Earth orbit (LEO) constellations. This will help catalyse investment, develop new manufacturing capabilities, and drive the improvement of connectivity in remote, rural and harder-to-reach areas in the UK and beyond. 

Awards of up to £20 million per project will be funded both by the UK Space Agency directly and through the European Space Agency’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) programme. 

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