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£500,000 awarded to create new Deep Space Centre

Spacepark Leicester Phase 1

A new centre dedicated to the exploration of deep space is to be built at the Space Park Leicester site, after the Wolfson Foundation awarded a £500,000 grant towards the project. The new Wolfson Deep Space Centre will foster collaboration between business and universities to develop solutions to major challenges in space exploration, such as powering longer missions without solar power.  One of Space Park Leicester’s key priorities will involve developing methods to lower the cost of placing satellites in orbit, and using these to provide data and services that benefit society and enhance everyday lives. The grant from the Wolfson Foundation will enable the Centre to apply those same approaches to changing the way we explore the distant planets.

Dr Nigel Bannister, Associate Professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “Missions to explore the planets are expensive, so they don’t happen very often. For example, our knowledge of the ice giants Uranus and Neptune is based on just a few hours of data taken as the Voyager-2 spacecraft flew past in the 1980s, carrying technology developed in the 1970s.  “The Wolfson Deep Space Centre will develop new technologies and methods, and adapt existing ones, to enable smaller, lower cost spacecraft to be used in deep space – to expand our exploration of the solar system, to visit planets more often and in ways not possible before, and provide an opportunity for the UK to become a leader in a new generation of space exploration mission.”

Professor Richard Ambrosi, Professor of Space Instrumentation and Space Nuclear Power Systems in the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “The Wolfson Centre has the potential to transform how we access space for scientific missions. Through our close links with industry, agencies and international partners, it has the potential to open new paths to low earth orbit, the lunar surface and deeper into the solar system. We are incredibly grateful to the Wolfson Foundation for their recognition of the world-leading research taking place at the University of Leicester. Their support, along with that of other partners, will enable us to develop innovative technologies and methods to transform the way we explore space in the future.”

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation said: “The Wolfson Foundation is a charity that funds buildings and equipment that support the highest quality research. This is a particularly impressive and intriguing research centre – a leader both nationally and internationally. We are delighted to be involved and to continue our funding in Leicester.”

Opening in 2021, Space Park Leicester is a landmark international initiative being developed by the University of Leicester in collaboration with partners, including Leicester City Council and the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership, to create a world-leading cluster for innovative research, enterprise and education in space and Earth observation. Not only will the new Deep Space Centre provide exciting opportunities for university students to be involved in real space projects, but it will work with the National Space Centre and National Space Academy – partners in Space Park Leicester – to develop new activities that support students and teachers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects at GCSE and A-level.  Using the exciting mission concepts and technology developments that will come from the Centre, the University of Leicester aims to inspire a new generation of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs.

Grant Bourhill, Chief Executive of Science Parks and Interim Director Research & Enterprise at the University of Leicester added: “Receiving the award from the Wolfson Foundation is a huge boost and adds to the growing high profile names associated with the Space Park. The Wolfson funds will allow us to increase our reach within space exploration – specifically deep space – and foster all-important collaborations between businesses and universities. Crucially it will further boost our activities in lowering the cost to access space.”

The Wolfson Foundation is an independent grant-making charity that aims to promote the civic health of society by supporting excellence in science, health, heritage, humanities & the arts. Since 1955, almost £900 million (£1.9 billion in real terms) has been awarded to nearly 11,000 projects and individuals across the UK, all on the basis of expert peer review. As part of this, the Wolfson Foundation is committed to supporting research intensive universities and institutions, through capital grants to enable exceptional research.

This announcement was made on 17 June 2020 by the University of Leicester. Original release can be found here

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