A revolutionary piece equipment made possible by funding from Swindon based UK Space Agency is to be installed on to the International Space Station (ISS), marking the UK’s first major industrial contribution to the spacecraft.
Two American astronauts will be undertaking a 6 hour space walk to install the Columbus Ka-band Terminal (ColKa), which will revolutionise scientists’ ability in the UK and Europe to access the results of their space-based experiments, from investigations into the effects of radiation on seeds to biomining research. The results will help unlock benefits for all of us, from understanding how our bodies and muscles age to furthering our understanding of illnesses like cancer and Parkinson’s Disease.
This giant leap forward for research carried out in the Columbus module will allow astronauts and researchers to benefit from a dedicated link back to Earth at home broadband speeds. Currently, results are returned to Earth on a hard drive, which could take months to receive, with data sometimes being lost in transit. The new terminal will enable results to be delivered to scientists just a day or two after the data is recorded - allowing scientists to process information much more quickly and adjust experiments if they see any problems with the data, such as an unclear image.
The contract was awarded to Oxford based MDA UK following the UK Space Agency’s investment of £40m in ESA’s space exploration programme in 2012. In November 2019 the UK committed £180 million to the European Space Agency’s global exploration programme, which, along with the lunar gateway and lunar communications, will include bringing back the first samples from Mars and support the US ambition to have a sustainable presence on the Moon.
North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson said: “Having the UK’s space programme headquartered in Swindon is a huge source of pride for me, and I am always fascinated to hear about the projects it is supporting. The work it does to fund research and development to advance our understanding of the universe is incredibly inspiring and hugely important.”