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Metro Mayor visits University to celebrate intergalactic research on Space Week

Left to right: Dr Timothy Pelham, Professor Mark Beach, VC Evelyn Welch and Mayor Dan Norris Alin Martin

Press release issued: 5 October 2023

Metro Mayor for the West of England Dan Norris visited the University of Bristol and met with experts looking to harness space as a key to net zero.

The West of England’s growing space industry is worth over £300 million and Space West, which includes the University, was one of eighteen projects to recently receive funding from the UK Space Agency as part of the levelling-up boost for the UK space sector, funding for new growth.

Some of the exciting projects under way include improving materials for space and nuclear applications, greenhouse gas monitoring at high frequencies and space solar farms.

Mayor Norris met with Dr Timothy Pelham whose team are looking at collecting solar energy from the Sun and beaming it safely down to Earth with clever wireless tech. This could be made a reality by as early as 2035.

Dr Pelham’s team are busy testing the different wireless systems which will enable the solar power collected in space to be transferred to earth.

He showed the Mayor round the University’s special purpose-built ‘Anechoic Chamber Facility’ which is key for the high-tech research, and explained how the project will provide evidence on the safety and reliability of different wireless systems - key to making solar farms in space a reality.

These solar satellites - still in early development - have huge potential to boost the UK economy while slashing emissions and driving down bills for locals in the region too by providing renewable energy all year round, as the Sun is visible 99% of the time.

One independent study found that space-based solar power could generate a quarter of the UK’s current electricity demand.

Dr Timothy Pelham said: "Our work at Bristol is a key-enabling technology for the development of space-based solar power worldwide.

"Space-based solar promises reliable, renewable power for the first time, using antenna arrays bigger than any built on Earth so far.

"Our open-source electromagnetics software opens the door to the design and safe operation of space-solar, and a new generation in renewable power."

Mayor Norris hailed Dr Pelham and said the ‘groundbreaking’ research was further proof of how key the West of England’s 100 company-strong space industry is becoming.

His Mayoral Authority is funding work on Space West - the region’s “space cluster” - and will double the 1,000 people working in the region’s space industry over the next four years.

Mayor Norris said: “The West of England space sector is a success story.

“From Bristol’s Thales Alenia Space who have built super-vital satellite tech used in space missions to track the health of our precious planet, to the vital National Composite Centre base in Emerson Green, we really are harnessing the endless possibilities of space to boost all our communities.

 “Dr Pelham and his team are no different. Their work could really help us take that giant leap - getting energy directly from space, with the West of England at the forefront of this.

“It just goes to show how vital the West's space sector is becoming. And with the cash my Mayoral Combined Authority is putting into Space West, we can and will go even further - to protect our planet, and explore our universe.”

Mayor Norris also met with researchers Professor Matt Rigby and Professor Ian Somerton, and the event was attended by Vice-Chancellor Evelyn Welch and Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise Professor Phil Taylor as well as Professor Michele Barbour, Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Innovation, Professor Ian Bond, Dean of Science and Engineering, Professor Kate Robson-Brown, Academic Lead for Space and Director of Jean Golding Institute and Professor Mark Beach, Joint Head of Communication Systems and Network Group.

Seizing the opportunity to play a leading role in the future success of the space sector and the wider space-enabled economy, the West of England was successfully named as one of seven new Space Hubs established by the UK Space Agency (UKSA) in November 2020.




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