On the anniversary of the launch of Ariel-1, April 26, the UK Space Agency and the Science Museum co-hosted a two-day conference celebrating 50 years of the UK in space. It brought together those who started the UK on the road to being a world-renowned centre for space technology and research with the scientists and engineers of the next fifty years.
Ariel-1 was the world’s first international satellite. The United Kingdom stepped up to an offer from NASA to launch scientific satellites at an international meeting on space research in 1959. From this point, the UK took the lead in satellite technology as well as beginning the UK’s long history of international collaboration.
As part of the programme on the 26th, there were personal insights from scientists and engineers involved in the original design and build of the Ariel series of satellites, as well as those teams developing the flagship programmes of today and tomorrow. The Science Museum will be highlighting historic milestones in the UK space sector over the course of the week.
The future is set to be as innovative and inspirational as the last 50 years. There is a vast potential for space technology. From the growing need for Earth observation satellites to monitor urgent social and environmental issues; to the emerging reality of space tourism; to our ever-improving capability to see deep into the Universe, the UK space sector is at the forefront of facing up to these challenges.
During the conference prospective UK astronaut Tim Peake, currently in the USA, addressed the conference via a Skype video link.
Shaun Kenyon, who has worked on the innovative STRaND-1 SmartPhone satellite project, gave a well received presentation about the future opportunities for the UK Space Industry. He also described another UK first – STRaND-2 – twin 3U CubeSats with docking capabilities using a gridded Lidar system based on that used in the Kinect games controller.