National SPRINT Open Competition 2020 awards funding for innovative space technology projects

Six UK companies have won major funding from the SPRINT 2020 Open Competition for new space technology projects.

Ultima Forma, EU ECO Technologies, URA Thrusters, Rezatec, Smallspark Space Systems and MercariRisk Tech were selected by the national SPRINT business support programme to collaborate with UK universities on innovative space-enabled product development projects. These include space component manufacturing, thermoelectric generators, water-based propulsion systems, space verification of land-based carbon offset projects, additive manufacturing for rocket fuel, and satellite-enabled digital insurance ecosystems. Each project will receive a share of the £250,000 funding made available.

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programme provides unprecedented access to university space expertise and facilities to help businesses develop new commercial products for space and other key sectors. SPRINT is led by the University of Leicester and includes the University of Edinburgh, The Open University, University of Southampton and University of Surrey.

Ultima Forma Ltd and Queen Mary University of London Project: Developing design rules for space component manufacture This project will enable Ultima Forma to define the shapes and material properties that can be readily manufactured for space technologies. This will create a database of design rules for shapes and materials performance, as well as a design guide that engineers can use as a starting point for novel space component development. It will provide capability building in the space industry with new and more efficient engineering solutions that can enhance payload efficiency.

EU ECO Technologies Ltd and Cranfield University Project: Prometheus - a novel, low-cost thermoelectric generator for space applications This project will enable EU ECO Technologies to develop a novel thermoelectric module that can be 3D/ink printed on flexible structures/film or effectively, be a ‘power source on a chip’. The new, film-based thermoelectric module can be integrated on any structure to exploit temperature gradients and generate (harvest) power. The proposed generator can be integrated on existing power architectures, can extend the lifetime of space systems and can reduce significantly mission costs by using 3D/ink printing technology to mass produce thermoelectric modules and therefore reduce mass/volume and mission cost.

URA Thrusters and Imperial College London Project: Performance tests of ICE - a novel water MEMS thruster and electrolyser for in-space propulsion of telecom satellites This project addresses cleaner and greener alternatives to chemical propulsion systems for the reaction and attitude control of satellites. It will test and characterise a disruptive water-based propulsion system that can be used in a broad range of spacecraft, with an initial focus in high thrust applications (1 – 10 Newtons of thrust) for reaction and attitude control of large satellites but will enable the development of a full family of products including commercial products for nano, micro and small satellites.

Rezatec Limited and University College London Project: Commercialisation of the space verification of land-based carbon offset projects Rezatec will develop new data products that accurately estimate the amount of carbon storage in both temperate and tropical forests. This development requires the input of world-renowned remote sensing, carbon measurement and GIS expertise at UCL to develop these products further so that long-term carbon accumulation can be measured and verified. Using these new Rezatec products, companies will have an easy way to verify their carbon offsets and ensure they are insured from wind, fire, disease and illegal logging losses. This will allow the creation of a new generation of innovative commercial land carbon monitoring products, leading to more afforestation and avoiding deforestation projects being set up around the world.

Smallspark Space Systems and University of Bath Project: Improving the Performance of Rocket Fuel through Additive Manufacturing Smallspark Space Systems is currently developing the next generation of launchers for the SmallSat market. The SPRINT project aims to push the current boundaries of launch architecture through the use of Additive Manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing. This is only viable due to the recent advancements in AM over the previous decade, allowing it to become more accessible at a low cost. AM will be used to improve the performance and characteristics of solid fuel, solving one of the issues that has plagued this specific architecture for decades.

MercariRisk Tech Ltd and University of Portsmouth Project: Satellite enabled digital insurance ecosystem for small farm-holders: Colombia MRT uses a combination of farm-focused, mobile digital photogrammetry and satellite-derived risk mapping to facilitate insurance and risk management advice to small farmers via a mobile app to help them reduce the risk of fatalities, damage to property and crops, and provide financial compensation, thereby increasing community resilience to insurable events. The test region for this SPRINT-funded project is Colombia, where MRT has several farm prospects, from which two farms will be selected for this feasibility study. This project will analyse existing satellite data for the target region to detect changes at ground level. From historical data of past hazard events that impacted farming, the project team will analyse and create change models that correlate to historic claims-loss data for the purposes of parametric insurance rating models. Ross Burgon, Head of the national SPRINT programme said: “We’ve successfully agreed over 65 SPRINT-funded projects across the UK in collaboration with our network of five partner universities. To further strengthen the contribution that universities are making to the UK space economy, we launched the Open Competition to enable UK businesses to exploit space technologies and data from any English university, in a wide range of commercial activities.

“We’re delighted to award funding to these six new projects and look forward to seeing how the results of their university collaborations help to drive the technological innovation of the UK space sector.”

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