The UK Space Conference 2015

The plenary sessions opened to an animation by animator and videographer Barry Wilkinson. For more info, see http://www.barry-wilkinson.com/news180715.html.

The UK Space Conference took place this week at the Arena and Convention Centre, Liverpool, and with over 1000 attendees was the biggest event so far in the history of the conference. This year the conference centred around a theme of ‘Space-Enabled Futures’, included the launch of the UK Space Environments Association and the UK Space Life And Biomedical Sciences Association, and came hard on the heels of the publication of the UK Space Agency’s Space Environments and Human Spaceflight Strategy, a first for the UK. It’s gratifying to see the conference doing so well and if the conference is representative of the broader space industry in the UK, then it’s a sign that the industry is doing well too.

I was also pleased to find that the conference was more balanced than in 2013. Since the UK Space Agency took on running the conference it has become increasingly commercial in nature, and this was particularly so in 2013. There has been a strong element of that in this year’s conference too, but thankfully the increased size has allowed it to offer a broader range of parallels, covering a broader range of topics. For my part, I found myself in the Space Environments and Space LABS sessions, which included some engaging looks back at some of the history of human Spaceflight science activities along with the launch of the two respective associations. There were also live link-ups on both days with Tim Peake, presently in quarantine at Baikonur where he is serving as backup crew for the forthcoming Soyuz launch. One of these was chaired by first Briton in space Helen Sharman, which resulted in some interesting discussion between the two.

Human spaceflight had a presence not just in the parallel sessions but throughout the conference, illustrating a major shift in government policy over the past five or so years. It is clear that the government has been dipping its toes into the water, and this year it has decided to dive in with the launch of the UK’s first Space Environments and Human Spaceflight Strategy—a strategy that included specific provision for supporting the development of commercial human spaceflight. I’ll say more on this strategy at a later time but clearly the future of Britain’s space industry, and its involvement in the human exploration and development of space, is looking bright.

Moving House

Hi everyone, this is a quick note to say that I’ve decided to move this blog over to WordPress. I’m doing this for a few reasons: having used WordPress for my own blog I’ve found it to be a far more capable platform; Google, which owns the Blogger platform, is known for shutting down weak services from time to time (Blogger doesn’t appear to have received many updates in recent years, which I take as a bad sign); and it means I can centralise everything rough one platform (and get rid of a redundant app). My new address will be https://britishastronauts.wordpress.com/ and I hope to be able to copy all blog posts over to the new address very soon.

I’m moving house myself, too, which has forced me to put other things on pause for a bit, but I have something about this week’s UK Space Conference to put up shortly and I also have the new Space Environments and Human Spaceflight Strategy to review. During term time most of my time and effort goes on my degree but as I’m free for the summer I hope to report on and extend the work I have carried out for my dissertation.

Getting started again

Several years ago I started this blog to act as a platform to share my enthusiasm for human spaceflight. I had been inspired by a number of experiences, such as the UK Space conference and meeting several astronauts. At the same time, however, I was also struggling with the combination of Asperger syndrome, a degree in Space Systems Engineering, and the aftermath of a family bereavement, so unfortunately I had to let this blog go for a while.

Over the past year, however, I’ve been working on a dissertation entitled “Should the UK invest in human spaceflight and, if so, how?” This dissertation took a broad look at where the UK space community has come from, where it is and where it’s going. Through this I have learned a lot about why the UK took such a limited approach to space in the past and how this contrasts with the efforts and results of other nations, how UK space policy has changed so dramatically over the past decade and what future opportunities are going to look like. My conclusion is that over the coming five to ten years, perhaps sooner, we’re going to see an intersection of this changed government approach to space, growing public enthusiasm and ‘space-mindedness’ following Tim Peake’s mission to the ISS and the possible opening of a spaceport, and the availability of launchers and operators that can slash the cost of getting into space. These things are happening now, and it’s important that we move quickly to seize the moment before we get left behind.

A few years ago I participated briefly in the Space Entrepreneurs UK meetup group. That group subsequently folded and it seems there’s been little activity on that front for a while. It seems like now is a good time to get it started up again. The British Interplanetary Society has been looking at the future of astronautics itself recently and I know that some members, including some who were involved in Space Entrepreneurs UK originally, might be supportive of this. In the meantime, I hope to be able to report on some of what I’ve learned and examine it more deeply.

The Case for Human Spaceflight

You know, when I set up this blog I never intended to just be passing on news and links to other websites and material.  There are other sites that do this; I wanted to do more.  Unfortunately I’ve had other things on my mind.  That’s about to end now.

We’re coming to the end of the Paralympic games, having had the Olympics a couple of weeks earlier, and I think everyone would agree that they have been a great success.  But what have they delivered?  How have they benefited our country?  I don’t doubt that they’ve done so of course but as a country we’ve spent the best part of £10 billion on the games and I want to be able to say why.  (To put that figure into a space-based perspective the International Space Station reputedly cost US$100 billion—about £62.5 billion at today’s exchange rate—to build.)

I don’t begrudge that money for a second: even if this country had a human spaceflight programme now, we’d still have spent it and would still have got the same value out of it.  But I sense an analogy here.  Just as our Olympic athletes inspire a generation to take up sports, so our astronauts could inspire a generation to take up careers in science and engineering.

At the UK Space Conference back in 2011 Jeremy Curtis, UK Space Agency’s head of Education, made some very upbeat remarks about attitudes to human Spaceflight; effectively, “make the case and you will get an astronaut”.  I don’t doubt that would be a difficult task, though it would be one very worth doing, and I suspect that much evidence is already out there and simply needs to be collated together.

ISS Timelapse Videos

Hi folks.  I just thought I’d share some of these amazing timelapse videos of Earth from the ISS.  They pretty much encapsulate everything I’m about:



View from the ISS at Night from Knate Myers


This is Our Planet from Tomislav Safundžić



The Earth as You’ve Never Seen it Before: Atmosphere, Airglow and Aurora from AJRCLIPS


This final one is a it longer, and was made with the help of Expedition 28 crewmember Ron Garan as he and his crewmates prepared to return to Earth:

Time Lapse From Space – Literally. The Journey Home. from Fragile Oasis on Vimeo.

UKSEDS Moonshot

In their latest Eclipse e-newsletter UKSEDS have proclaimed “Professor Quatermass has got nothing on us…”: for, in conjunction with the British Interplanetary Society, they are planning to send a cubesat to the moon!
The Moon is moving away from the Earth at a rate of 3 cm/year; can we really afford to let it get away with this?

UKSEDS, together with the British Interplanetary Society, plan to send a CubeSat orbiter to the Moon! We’re in the early planning stages yet, but the aim is for a mission in 2013/2014. Resources and support from third parties have recently become available to make this a serious proposition and what we need right now are volunteers. Would you like to be involved, or know someone who does? If so: contact us!
To get involved email committee@ukseds.org.

RAeS Lecture: Europe’s Human Spaceflight Programme: Current Planning and Future Options

Sorry for the lack of activity recently; not a great start to the blog.  Blogging has been on pause for a while as I’ve been preoccupied with house-hunting and a few other things.  I have, however, taken on an ad-hoc role with UKSEDS helping to keep their website ukseds.org and the Big Space Calendar up to date.

An important talk is coming up at the Royal Aeronautical Society.  Dr. Thomas Reiter, ESA astronaut and Director of ESA’s new Directorate of Human Spaceflight and Operations, is to give a lecture at the RAeS entitled Europe’s Human Spaceflight Programme: Current Planning and Future Options.  The lecture takes place at 6.00pm on Monday 19th September and is being jointly organised with the Centre for Space Medicine at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London.

With the demise of the Space Shuttle and the continuing debate in the USA as to what should follow it Europe’s plans for human spaceflight are the subject of much debate.  The Space Station also needs a crew to operate it and ESA has an astronaut corps, consisting of 8 Europeans, who are training for the upcoming missions. They are supported by a team of ground support staff who work in the European training, control and user centres.

Refreshments will be available from 5.30pm and a post-lecture reception will follow, sponsored by Logica.  This lecture is free to attend for both members and non-members alike; to confirm your attendance email conference@aerosociety.com or go to the event page and click on ‘Register for this event’.

P.S., it seems that David Mackay’s lecture at the Southend branch of the RAeS has been cancelled as it no longer appears on the RAeS events calendar.  It has been replaced with a talk by Stuart Eves from SSTL entitled Sophisticated Small Satellites from Surrey.