UKube-1 Amateur Radio CubeSat books a ride on Soyuz-2

Artist’s Impression of UKube-1 in space – Credit Clyde Space

UKube-1 – the UK Space Agency’s first CubeSat mission – has ‘booked’ its journey into space on a Russian Soyuz-2 rocket. The launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrone in Kazakhstan is expected to take place in March 2013.

UKube-1 carries an amateur radio 435/145 MHz linear transponder built by members of AMSAT-UK.

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Sir Arthur Clarke Awards – Nominations Sought

Arthurs 2011 Winners – Image Credit British Interplanetary Society

The British Interplanetary Society are seeking nominations for this years Sir Arthur Clarke Awards.

In recognition of notable or outstanding contributions made to all space activities, the Sir Arthur Clarke Awards have been presented annually since 2005.  In the past the Award Ceremony has been an integral part of the UK Space Conference, but as the Conference is now held every other year, to avoid conflicting with the Farnborough Air Show, it has been decided to go ahead with this year’s “Arthurs” Awards to provide complete continuity.  The Award Ceremony will take place at a lunch in the House of Lords in October.

Though primarily designed to reward UK teams and individuals for their achievements over the past year, 2011-2012, the Awards will include International and Lifetime Achievement categories.

Further information and online nomination form at

British Interplanetary Society

Reform of the Outer Space Act 1986: Consultation

The UK Space Agency has issued a public consultation seeking views of stakeholders on proposed changes to the Outer Space Act 1986.

This is in response to the Government Growth Review published in March 2011, in which the Government set out its wish to reform the Outer Space Act 1986 by introducing an upper limit on liability for UK operators.

The Outer Space Act covers all UK satellites irrespective of size, from tiny low cost educational CubeSats up to large commercial £500 million satellites.

The key aspects of the consultation are the proposals to waive the capped liability and insurance requirement for in-orbit operation of any satellite that meets the criteria of a CubeSat and to remove the requirement for unlimited indemnity from satellite operators.

The existing Outer Space Act imposes heavy additional costs (>£50,000 per annum) on those wishing to launch small educational CubeSats. The additional costs act as a major deterrent and to-date no such UK CubeSat has been launched.

The public consultation closes August 31, 2012.

Further information at

UK Space Agency to send up first satellite

Artist impression of UKube-1

The UK Space Agency has announced plans to launch its first satellite – if it can find the right spaceship to catch a lift from.

The tiny UKube-1 will carry a variety of scientific experiments when it eventually gets off the ground later this year.


The project will see the agency take a leap into launching cubesats – a type of relatively cheap, mini-satellite for space research which has a volume of little more than one litre, a mass of around 1.3kg.

It also marks a significant departure for UKSAformed less than a year ago from the British National Space Centre, which had focused on supplying European Space Agency with parts and expertise for a variety of missions. 

Head of communications Matt Goodman said: ‘We’re still in discussions with potential launch providers for UKube-1, and are working hard to find a launch option for the satellite.

‘Since cubesats tend to “piggy-back” on larger payloads during a launch, finding an opportunity with the right orbital configuration is not straightforward.’

Despite its relatively small budget, UKSA hopes to become a much bigger player in the industry, launching several more satellites in the years to come.

Agency head David Williams said: ‘The idea of cubesat is that we see it as a series with a launch every year or maybe two years allowing the sort of people that wouldn’t normally get access to space to run experiments in it.

‘We’d like to see this being an ongoing programme because it gives university groups, and even school groups and amateur groups, the opportunity to test fly equipment. It also gives industry the opportunity to test fly and to develop ideas on bits and pieces of electronics.’

UKSA is also involved in another ambitious project named Skylon, which is an ‘unpiloted, reusable spaceplane intended to provide inexpensive and reliable access to space’, according to the British firm Reaction Engines, which is hoping to build the new craft. 

The project got the green light from the European Space Agency in May last year. Although technologically possible, the project’s major stumbling block appears to be cost.

Mr Williams said: ‘We’re trying to work with [the team] to work out how they can raise the necessary finance and whether government should have any involvement in it in the future.

‘It’s going to be an expensive programme, several billion pounds over quite a long period, and the question is which industries wish to be involved, how UK should it be, how European should it be, should it be an international project?’ he added. ‘The idea of a true single-stage-to-orbit plane is very novel.’