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Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post
Lauren Phillips

Cardiff aerospace firm backed by UK Space Agency for 'landmark' 2024 moonshot project

The UK Space Agency has thrown its support behind a Cardiff aerospace company to develop technology that will form part of the first cislunar mission launched from Britain. SmallSpark Space Systems, which creates novel engineering solutions for the aerospace and space industry, has received financial backing from the UK Space Agency to develop next generation rocket propulsion systems.

The company has received £76,000, as part of a package from the agency worth £2.7 million for 13 early-stage technology projects across England, Scotland and Wales to support the satellite launch sector.

SmallSpark will use the funding to develop a dual-firing mode propulsion system, designed to power the company’s Space Logistics Vehicle (S4-SLV), along with upper stages of launch vehicles. SmallSpark's S4-SLV will then service small satellites in orbit, prolonging their life and reducing space debris.

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SmallSpark chief executive and director of propulsion Joseph Ward said: “We’re working to build the equivalent of public transport for satellites, with regular trips providing power, comms and mobility as needed by customers.

“SLV’s purpose is to reduce the development time for satellite manufactures, eliminating the need for onboard systems beyond those critical to operations. We believe this is an essential step in enabling a thriving cislunar economy.”

Set to be the first of its kind demonstrated in space, the mobility and logistics capabilities of SmallSpark's S4-SLV will be provided by the S4-NEWT-A2. It will be one of the core systems that will enable SmallSpark’s S4-SLV to reliably move throughout cislunar space, with the intention to be refuelled in space. Each vehicle seeks to serve at least 50 payloads in its lifetime, ending with a deorbit burn and bringing debris down with it.

Matt Archer, director of commercial spaceflight at the UK Space Agency, said: “The UK Space Agency is excited to support this innovative technology from SmallSpark Space Systems, which will offer operations and communications solutions for companies looking for efficient ways to launch satellites into space.

“We are committed to developing the UK’s launch sector, and this grant forms part of a £3 million package that the UK Space Agency is investing in launch technologies to help boost growth and unlock business opportunities all along the launch supply chain.

“SmallSpark’s exciting work on in-space logistics is a fantastic example of how the UK is leading the way on space sustainability, as the SLV will be able to service small satellites in orbit, thereby prolonging the life of satellites and reducing space debris.”

SmallSpark has launched an online booking system allowing parties to be one of the first to secure their place on the historic launch scheduled for 2024.

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