Under the surface of Scotland’s space industry
- Publication Date
- Professor Craig Clark MBE FREng FRSE
- Ivan McKee
- Robin Sampson
- Angela Mathis
With the global space market expected to hit $1 trillion USD by 2040, it might be a surprise to some that Scotland is planning to be one of the big hubs of the space sector. Over recent years, the space industry in Scotland has grown from strength the strength – from Spaceports built to launch satellites and businesses developing technologies to use this satellite data to companies working to investigate space sustainability.
Scotland is building a space industry that will be able to compete with the other major players in the sector – and it shows no signs of slowing down. We’ve brought together innovators and experts from across the country who are some of the leading names in the Scottish space sector to share their insight and thoughts about where how far we’ve come and what the new frontiers are for Scotland’s rapidly growing space industry.
This event is part of Curious 2023.
Get under the surface with Scotland’s leading experts! The Royal Society of Edinburgh’s summer event series, Curious, is back from 04-17 September.
Delve deep during thought-provoking discussions, explore cutting-edge research and ignite your curiosity through a range of engaging talks, workshops, tours, and exhibitions. Join in this celebration of extraordinary people discussing big ideas!
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Please note that this transcript has been automatically generated and may feature errors.
and welcome to the Royal Society of Edinburgh. And under the surface of Scotland space industry session, which is part of the RSE’s Curious programme. So a quick housekeeping notice before we get started.
There is no fire drill expected. So if the fire alarm does go off, you follow the people and the purple T shirts out the door, and then just assemble yourselves at the front of the building, which should be great. And so as mentioned, this is part of the curious programme, which is a series of summer events run by the RSE on a number of topics. And it’s got exhibitions. And it’s basically to encourage you guys and other people to look under the surface stuff, go a bit deeper and ask questions about different subjects that are maybe not as familiar to you as what they might be. And for space today, really delighted to be joined by the very important people from the space sector in Scotland. So I’ve got Angela Mathis, who’s the CEO and co-founder of ThinkTank Maths based in Edinburgh, and also the daughter company in Norway.
We’ve got Robin Sampson who is the CEO and founder of Trade in Space. And Ivan McKee MSP for Glasgow Provan and rmer Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise. So without further delay, let’s crack on.
talk about a bit is actually why we actually have a space sector here in Scotland, because it’s quite a new thing for us. We’ve always had a very excellent kind of research community and academic community working in space in Scotland. But we’ve really not had much of the space sector as an industry. So we’ve not done much in terms of making things or using space
Well, I think it’s kind of goes back to about 2005. So I worked at a company called sorry, satellite technology limited after I left university, which was in 1995.
Something like that a long time ago, and worked on small satellites. So about the size of a washing machine, these sattelites were. It’s quite a new area. So it’s kind of satellites in a different way. And I was down in Surrey. So after about 11 years of working there, I was like, well, it’d be quite good to go back to Scotland for my wife, we we had a child as she was one years old and my wife was pregnant, we thought, well, there’s no jobs. So why don’t we use the money from selling the house and start a company. So that’s what we did. That seemed like quite a normal thing to do. So we did.
We see an opportunity for small satellites doing things a bit differently. So using commercial components, commercial components, maybe find that a computer or your phone or something like that, but actually using them in a space application carefully so you made sure it worked, but
Not necessarily using space grade components, which are often very expensive, very difficult to use. And, you know, things end up taking a lot longer and you know, timeframes, it’s more, you’re kind of more restricted in what you can do. So we thought we’re going to start this business and make power systems or small satellites. I went to a conference, very first year of starting the company and discovered cube sats. And cube sats, where there’s kind of a standard form factor of satellite is about a 10 by 10 by 10 centimetre cube. And I thought that’s a great idea. It’s all standard, you know, standard components for this type of satellite. So we developed our first product was, which was a power system for cube sats, developed a battery as well. And we started selling these all over the world. And we actually had a website which had a shop on it. So you could just buy with a credit card, which was, again, the first thing, the first company I think, in space ever done that. So just really being innovative about how we approach space and trying to do things differently. But we quickly moved on from thinking about doing
just subsystems for for chipsets, and we thought, Well, why don’t we actually make our own satellite because it’s, you know, to really do more, we need to be doing fill satellite. So we set off in our mission to make a run satellite, we’ve done this, in collaboration with the University of Strathclyde, using the transfer partnership with great support from Scottish Enterprise, we got a lot of investment, it was extremely tough to do this, a lot of hard work went into it. But after a few years of grinding and designing and trying to get this thing finished, we had the finished product. And this is a picture of me with the team and the satellite. This is called UK one. So this is Scotland’s first satellite. And it was launched in 2014. And it worked. And that kind of changed everything. Because it showed that not only could be, you know, design and build a satellite here in Scotland, we could get it launched and it was going to work in nicely performed multiple different experiments onboard proved a lot of technologies and showed that we can actually do things and within about a year or so of doing of launching that mission spire global, which is a company that was based in California, the team moved their operations to Scotland, and set up in our office initially, but now are one of the biggest space companies and Scotland didn’t want submissions for people as well. So really proud of the fact that we’re able to encourage companies that aspire to come. So it kind of opened the door to a lot of companies to come here and to, to work in space. And that’s in I’m responsible for, for all the rest of it. But, you know, have launch sites about I think there’s about 170 space companies in Scotland down eight and a half 1000 People working in the space sector. But if you look at the sector as a whole, it’s not just about making satellites and components. We’ve got research, we have manufacturing, that the satellites and the payloads, the launch vehicles people make and launch vehicles in Scotland, we have spaceport with the only place in Europe, there’s vertical launch sites, so everyone’s really interested in coming to Scotland to use them. So we have people wanting to come and build their launch vehicles here. And then once we’re here, which is amazing. We have deep ground stations with data services. And there’s even more than that. So that’s all kind of spun out from just a crazy idea. Just seeing what we could do, and really kind of putting, putting ourselves out there and seeing, you know, showing, showing the world what is possible. And the world looks at Scotland as an exemplar of really of what’s what you can do if you just like kind of explore new avenues, new markets, it’s like any business in any any sector, really, you’re kind of looking for doing things that different, you know, if you can do things, but different. And you can change the way that people think about an industry and a sector. And that’s really opened the door to to what we’re seeing today. And I guess the question really is, you know, we are next and I think that’s where our panel can talk a bit about because we’re looking at the future of space and applications and, you know, and what we’re going to be doing next in Scotland. So with that, I invite Robin Sampson to come up and talk about what he’s up to, if that’s okay
Hello, good evening, everyone. It’s a real honour to be here at the Royal Society of Edinburgh to speak to you all about the work that we’re doing at trade in space. And I think we kind of represent another segment of Scotland space industry that focuses on downstream applications. So what can we do from all of those satellite systems that are now operating in orbit? Trad in space is the company that I founded. And our mission is to support people in agricultural supply chains to act more sustainably, ethically and with transparency and what they do to make markets a bit more accessible and open, especially for commodity trade. Now, really, we focus on three different domain areas, three different application types, one of which is satellite data and financial services applications, which is one of the fastest growing data user segments can’t quite see what that says. But it says satellite data and agriculture applications. And also satellite data and location and identity applications. So trade in space really blends all of those three areas together, and to products and services. And we distribute that data through novel software processing means. In other words, we make that data accessible to people who trade with each other, so that they can verify and audit details of suppliers, and other people within their supply chain in a way that’s not currently possible. One of the things I want to tell you about downstream satellite applications that makes it really exciting and I think is often kind of forgotten is that we have the opportunity to reach hundreds of 1000s, if not millions of people with satellite applications. Think about Sky TV, for example, in Google Maps, these are kind of one to many on a truly global scale. And it’s the same for smallholder agriculture is the biggest employer of most people on the planet, most families earn a living through smallholder agriculture. But it’s completely on mats, there’s very little data about it. And not much is known about it. So that’s where we’ve taken an approach to try and provide services that can add value to smallholder agriculture using satellite data. And this guy here. He’s called Mr. lasso. He’s a smallholder farmer in Colombia, he makes award winning coffee. We work with Nesta and cat to import some coffee from Colombia using a satellite image as the contract to buy his coffee. So this was the first time that had ever been done anywhere in the world, where we use a satellite image to place a bid on an asset that was owned by someone to transfer money to that person, and then arrange shipment and logistics for that product from a remote part of Colombia to Glasgow, vastly reducing the cost of that trade and transaction that would otherwise have been possible. So that’s a bit about what we do. We also make commodity much more traceable, and ethical. Here’s another example of some of the team working with some cacao producers or cocoa producers, and Colombia, that chocolate in there or will be at some point, in the not too distant future. We’ve made chocolate supply chains fully traceable and auditable as well, which is important if you’re a trader. And these guys are delighted, because they can now sell their cocoa at a much higher price than would otherwise have been possible. If they hadn’t collected all that location data on the product. They’re able to get roughly 22% uplift on that cacao now that they’ve worked with our product. Now want to show you some I mean, let’s let’s talk a little bit about what we’re actually looking for in smallholder agriculture. This is a typical landscape that we will work with. There are many different species of agriculture and there but you might not be able to see them all at once. These are palm for palm oil plants. This is actually coffee. And you can see and some of these you can see there’s a little bit of shape to it and texture. So we can notice that. There’s also a few other things. There’s some banana in there as well. And a few other things as an agroforestry landscape. As really typical of smallholder agriculture, you’ll see several different types of crop, it’s actually recommended to be the most healthy kind of agriculture in terms of carbon absorption. And this is what we look at. Contrast that to this landscape. This is what a coffee landscape in Brazil looks like. Very easy to quantify and classify that with a satellite images so easy to exactly calculate how much area there is of coffee here. Therefore you can work out how much that is priced that and get insight on how much coffee is going to come to market next year. Because pretty much all coffee in the world. Well, not all but like 55% of coffee in the world comes from Brazil so it really drives the market. And this is the main thing that we want to try and observe as well or trying to catch up on this kind of deforestation as well, which is a major problem and agriculture supply chains, and has become the main focus for downstream Earth observation applications. At the moment, at least the main civilian application for that technology is trying to find instances of deforestation, and trying to engage people on the ground to avoid deforestation as well. It’s a big part of the work that happens in Edinburgh, the university takes a leadership role, and identifying, identifying deforestation management techniques, and there are lots of businesses in Scotland that work on this problem. So it’s a good one to try and highlight. I mentioned all these different textual analysis that we can perform, looking at colour, texture of commodity crops, we can look at topology and relief, coffee always tends to grow on hills. So there’s more Tropical Agriculture. So we can put all these things together. And then really pinpoint where these things are, learned a lot of things about them. That’s a big focus of what we do. And this is a slightly different application where we’re able to identify exactly where deforestation is happening. That data ultimately comes from Sentinel, and Landsat systems, which are at the bigger end of the satellite spectrum. They’re huge. We use them to find out where deforestation has happened in the last couple of weeks. And that’s how we know where there’s action that needs to be taken. One hectare of tropical forest stores 100 to 200 metric tonnes of carbon and one kilometre squared stores between one and 2 million metric tonnes therefore of storage carbon. So that’s why this is such a huge issue. You don’t need me to spell out much further than that, but. And so just to kind of finish the point on why we’re so focused on this as a downstream application. Here are some numbers about what the trade in tropical agriculture is worth. And I chose Europe because you know, much of these things will then be re exported to the UK and Scotland anyway. And we’re talking about billion dollar industries and billion dollar consumptions. The only realistic way that we can find out how much deforestation is being imported along with all of those things and what the carbon footprint of those things are, as by examining their, their geospatial signatures as well. So that’s what we hoped to do with trade in space. And with that, I’ll better hand over to our next speaker, which is going to be Ivan McKee. Thank you.
Thanks very much. Yes, good, good. Thanks very much, Robin, on thanks so much RSE for inviting me along this evening to take part in the discussion, which I’m very much looking forward to. And and thanks very much to Craig for the opening remarks. And if you didn’t know already, you know, they’ve got an awful lot of coffee in Brazil. So I just want to find out what to talk about as luck, okay, um, bizarrely, because you either get lucky, or you make your own luck through hard work on the realities to be successful, you probably need a bit of both. And I think in the space sector, in Scotland over the last 10/15/20 years, perhaps there has been quite about what things just lining up that the right people being in the right place at the right time meeting the right people and doing the right things. But that sector, now, the space sector is now place where it’s got real potential to be a huge economic driver in Scotland, and a lot of the stars, are lined up to enable that to happen. And I just want to unpick all of that a wee bit about where we are just now in the sector and what we’re focused on what the institutions and ecosystem looks like. I mean, whether expertise as a bit about what the opportunities that could be a bit about some of the challenges that are going to be faced along that along that journey. In Scotland, the space sector like to talk about this end to end capability and it being fairly unique. No one else has got that all of the aspects that we’re having Scotland from the excellent research in our leading universities, many of whom are obviously focused on on space and all its aspects. Through manufacturing this small satellite manufacturing that Craig touched on. Obviously, he was very much at the heart of that, but also in a launch vehicle manufacture, and other manufacturing capabilities around around that. Launch capability which is coming on stream over the the next few months, I taught the five spaceports potentially vertical and horizontal, the space data sector – we’ve heard from Robin and trade in space – the huge opportunities that line that downstream capability, and also the ground station capabilities, we all that we have, that we have in Scotland, it was something to forget about, it’s part of the overall picture. So that intent capability is something that very, very few other countries in the world have got. And we’ve ended up with that through through various reasons, a lot of great personalities driving that, but puts us in a very, very strong position to build on. We’ve also got that very clear focus on sustainability, the first country in the world to have a space sustainability strategy, which understands clearly the uses. And we’ve seen some great examples of that already. There are many, many more, helping to tackle the net zero challenges that we have, the products themselves, the launch vehicles, a huge focus for launch vehicle manufacturers. Skyrora on making those vehicles as eco friendly as possible, and then of course how we using that data further downstream. So all of that really that theme runs right through what we’re doing. It’s a very different public perception, traditionally to what space is. And it’s something that we can see, when you talk to you initially about space in Scotland, think of talking about talking about astronauts, I’m talking about, frankly, not very environmentally friendly sector. But the more you explain what it’s all about, the more they can get it. And one of the things that’s been quite interesting politically over the past few years is we’ve had – I remember about five years ago, there was a conservative MSP, who shall remain nameless, who took to Twitter to ridicule the very concept of a Scottish police strategy. Well he’s in a very different place. Now, another end of the spectrum we’ve got the Greens have been very, very suspicious of the space sector in Scotland, for the reasons I’ve identified, I think they’re getting a better understanding of the sustainability and environmental positives it can bring to, to it to the bigger challenges that we we face and institutional in Scotland, we’ve we’ve got space Scotland, which is a if you’re part of space, Scotland, you know, what I’m talking about, I found actually dynamic energising for them to be involved in in the teams that took part in the meetings, all kinds of characters, real energy, real enthusiasm and willingness to go out there and grab opportunities and deliver on them. But our real collaboration as well to work together to make that happen. The Scottish Government tournament, I was at Manchester and I know certainly very much since then, as well, as well, has been hugely focused with its agencies on supporting that activity. And then what beyond that the Scottish share space academic forum, bringing to bear the abilities that we have across 30 universities to support what’s happening across the sector. And then the Scottish International Advisory Committee space advisory committee formed of our global Scots Angela has been instrumental in pulling together just shows that the broad international of Scots are in the space sector, and we’re working very hard. So that whole ecosystem puts us in a very strong place to, to build on as well. And of course, we build on top of a data sector, particularly in Edinburgh, that is certainly European and possibly one of the world leading in terms of what it brings to bear with the School of Informatics and OB st and other work that’s happening there. So that platform for the data and analytics, either the sector is hugely important, of course, then at Prestwick, the aerospace cluster is a big, big part of that. So many of those elements are there in place ready to be to be built on and I think I circle is very keen to, to do that. I think the first of the opportunities is round about making that end to end capability that we’re talking about real and Lauren shall happen. And then that then drives a number of things really possession Scotland, you can faintly metal dollar satellite chalet and an OEM factory and finish them but at the end of the day, people drive past everyday and don’t know it’s there, we start saying this stuff and Essbase people know it’s there. So I think that will really put Scotland on on the mark with regards to the sector that sends an international signal and also sends a signal within Scotland across the rest of the UK that the space sector in Scotland is something to be reckoned with and that attracts business. You’ll find some really good if the AI wins over the past number of years, but I will start to excel at it. I’ll come on to talk about that briefly in a minute as well attract capital investment to support growth. essence is in Scotland, which is a gap but something that really, absolutely necessary to take forward. But getting those VCs to get on a plane and come to Scotland, and see what that business pipeline looks like, is absolutely critical. So launch and antenne capability really help that. And also talent, because we need to bring in talent, homegrown talent as best we can, but also bring in talent from the rest of the UK and further afield to fuel that growth. Second opportunity is showing the boat the way their economic benefit. And we’ll look at some great numbers and I think 26%, cargo and stuff like that. So really, really poised of stuff. But obviously start from very, very small base, the sector roughly is about half a percent of Scotland’s economy at the moment. But you can see how we’re that kind of growth rate over the next 1015 20 years, it could really be a significant mainstay of Scotland’s economy. And then reality when we’ll only get to sectors, that kind of 10% plus of the Scottish economy, financial services and the energy sector, and others that are smaller, but growing and in terms of technology sectors, by space is absolutely got the capability to be up there with the SEC doesn’t that is a sobering thought when you think about it. But I think that it’s the scale of the ambition that we need to be need to be focused on.
The strategy that the sector is built together as being with with government, with industry with with academia, and gives your clarity and focus, I had the pleasure of launching that to export in Dubai, and 20 or export 2020 2021. And that, again, was a real opportunity to put Scotland on the map. And it got I think it was the most visited one of the most popular events on there on that day and Expo. So it was really great to see that. And it’s worth orchids also considered in host space enables other sector. So I’ve mentioned data, and the support that the data and tech sector in Scotland provides to space. But right across agriculture, we’ve talked about in logistics, forestry, we’ve talked about financial services and fintech tourism sector. And there’s got to interplays with space in terms of how they can both both support each other, and tourism can feed off those capabilities. And of course, net zero on what we’re doing an energy, and there are plenty more. So there are all sorts of real opportunities. And every time I have a conversation, that unrelated sector, there’s almost always a space and a space to depart to that. And I think making sure that other sectors understand that is really important. And of course, the international aspect, as you’re getting Scotland’s name out there, through the work that’s hurtling through Scottish government offices in through the SDI have done a great job and connecting up with investors is very important and international linkages. And there’s a number of countries where as a minister and I had conversations with to help explain to them where Scotland was in space, but also to look for areas of mutual support with Ireland and in the academic excellence. They’ve got built with Luxembourg, and their expertise and legal and be it with other other countries, other parts of the world where there was a real interest in what Scotland was do, and the willingness to cooperate and what what to get off to mutual mutual benefit. The challenges I’ve already mentioned, I think the investment pieces is absolutely significant. How do you persuade VCs from California to get on a plane and come to Scotland and have a look at what we’ve got in the space sector, the bigger the critical mass gets, the more attractive that become so that feeds off itself. And we need to work on his international linkages to raise that profile. And talent is absolutely critical. Businesses finding themselves in their possession, indigenous businesses, small and large, investors haven’t failed over the same talent. So be able to expand the talent pool indigenously is hugely important, but also been very, very bold, ambitious about attracting talent from elsewhere to come to Scotland, and selling that message about what we’ve got to offer. Somebody building the career in that sector here won’t be short of opportunities. If they don’t only the first voice, there’s plenty more around the corner to go to go and work for and that’s absolutely, absolutely critical. And of course, continue to generate spinit businesses through from our universities as well. And on the skills piece, the space sector getting into schools, because there is nothing more attractive in my main MySpace sector pitching up to talk to teenagers, but why they should study STEM STEM subjects and why they should be looking to get into the space sector. We do somewhere that I think the whole sector is very keen that we’ll do that. We’ll do more of that. So just in conclusion, I think those ingredients are all the LSAT attitude in the sector, that scale of ambition, if anything, make even bigger because I say to become one of the mainstays of Scotland’s economy is absolutely they have to be done. We just need to make sure everything is pointing in the right direction when the standard challenges we need to we need to break down that clarity and focus on what we’re good at. Because one of the keys to success Mind is not pretending and good at everything, understanding data driven analytically what you are good at, and then working on that relentlessly to project your your image globally, and the whole of Team Scotland across that ecosystem, working together to deliver on that tackling those talent challenges and those investment challenges. So I think as I said at the start, we’ve got lucky to get here, to some extent, but building on fertile ground, but those elements are all there now. And over the next 510 years, I think we’ll really see the sector in a hugely significant place with people in the street and Scotland recognising and understanding where Scotland sector is basic that is all about and in northern Alberta, in the same way that they’re worried about oil and gas, or renewable energy, or financial services at the moment. And there are other parts of the world understanding what Scotland’s got to offer and wanting to be here and be part of that. And it’s not to that vision statement that’s in the in the strategy about making Scotland the best place in the world to start and grow a space business is what it’s all about. So thanks so much for listening very much interested and what Angela’s got to say, under discussion in the q&a We’ll have later. Thank you very much.
So thank you very much for the Royal Society to invite me here this evening to join this vast research group representing the Scottish space sector. And I’m telling you our part in it. So if I, yes. So I’m Angela Matis. I’m the chief executive of a company called Think Tank Maths is basically maths algorithms for dealing with. Well, we deal with, you know, we deal with the space sector, but we’re also in the energy transition sector, because you need new algorithms and new things to be doing things with more precision, and deal with all the complexity that’s coming up. I think, you know, Ivan was saying about, just before I dive into this, Ivan was thinking about, you know, we’ve got end to end, we have in this space Scotland community, we sort of say, anybody who’s got a business today, what’s your space strategy, because I think really, no matter what business you’re in, you know, you can be using satellite data or even doing something to change your business model. And you know, and be getting ahead, and you can see some of the things that Robin’s been up to as well. And the other thing that Ivan mentioned is, we have the and I would advise you to go and look at that there’s the sustainability. So the space sustainability roadmap for Scotland, which really sets you know, sets the pieces we said was the first globally to do so. I believe. Looking at it, you hear it’s different. And France, you know, France also has the Knesset, which is the National, the National sort of space, space state space agency in France. And they have sustainability is a big is a big thing, but that Scotland already has one and has published that is great. So what I’m going to talk to you is a bit about is to help you understand, really what is very important about space, it’s exciting, it’s got opportunities, but we need to kind of understand space traffic management in space, a couple of things just to get the ground rules here. People think spaces is infinite. But actually, the bit that we are interested in, take out your mobile phone that we’re interested in is a finite area around the planet. And you know, it’s the distances from there that you you know, you want to be orbiting around, certain people want to be orbiting around, because that’s the place where you can communicate back to Earth. And you can also sort of, you know, manage, you know, just manage accessibility, etc. So, we talked about near Earth orbit, and in particular, we talked about something that might see lower Earth orbit. And that’s, you know, it’s from 200 kilometres from the surface of the earth, to about 2000 kilometres from the surface of the earth. Now, just to put that into perspective, some of the military and strategic stuff is 36,000 kilometres away from the surface of the earth. But we are looking at the bit that is very finite. And there’s a clean Goldilocks band of about 200, and sorry, 350, to about 800 kilometres, and that’s the bit everybody wants to be in, because that’s where you don’t get such a pullback to the Earth from gravity. But you also can do a lot of communication very quickly for 4g, and all the things we’re doing. So we’ll get onto that. And I’ll be here to get on that. And what I’m gonna be talking about is why we need novel maths and models. If we want to keep this wonderful, this wonderful domain that we have that we can exploit for all the wonderful things we can do here on the planet, for the first time actually probably at scale for it with humanity. So it’s I’m afraid to be using this sort of gloom, but it is about the potential of collision collision. So the collision risk, and just an exactly that, why would you will come on the last of those vital satellite services. So for example, if things in orbit started smashing into each other, you wouldn’t have any for you wouldn’t have any 4g. And with no mobile phone, you weren’t able to pay for anything, you know, because a lot of other things go up to basically robots in the sky going round on these orbits. And beam things back down, the banking sector wouldn’t be able to function as it does a lot of the energy sector, because they use a lot of the satellite communication, it’s become so endemic in our society, I’m gonna tell you in the UK alone, 300 billion pounds sterling of our GDP, relies on this already on the satellites going around the Earth. So if anything happens to those, and it gets too crowded, or we don’t know how to manage them properly, we have an issue, you know, Houston, we have an issue. And then also the Earth observation, which we’re just beginning to see, you know, the wonderful fruit Thor, we would have an issue with that too, because we’d go and here’s, here’s the, here’s the bit. So until about five years ago, it was mostly the national, you know, the big national groups that have synchronous, and I’m saying that because we’ve got the, the Consul General of Francis here this evening, and but also NASA, JAXA, et cetera, who’s who’ve, you know, all the launches that went on from there, and there was very, very limited. So we had about 2500 Working satellites. And it’s been thus, for decades really, until lower cost of launch. Right. So that’s one of the changing factors. Launch, we’re just talking about, Scotland’s gonna have lots of launch capabilities, so you’re able to launch more cheaply. If I told you that, for example, Rwanda has said that they’re going to have three, they’ve already set out and said they’ve got licences for 300,000. Satellites in, you know, in low Earth orbit, I think about that. Today, we’ve already grown to 11,500, around that orbit, remember, finite space 11,500, from 2500. And the forecast within the next five years is 70,000. And that is conservative. So we really might have a congestion problem. Remember, we’re talking about how do we avoid that collision, I’m going to talk to you a little bit about about those. So this in case you haven’t seen it, if you want to go and play with this, it’s Wayfinder by a company called privateer that we’ve been partnering with in the in the US and this is this is a plotting of the catalogue of the non satellites, it’s actually got active satellites, inactive satellites, old rocket debris bodies, and and some other debris. In fact, this is just the stuff that’s catalogued. In other words, things that are bigger than 10 centimetres that are many it said that are probably a couple of million, actually 200 million, some people are saying two 300 million, have lots of pieces smaller than that, that we cannot even detect in this finite area around the planet. So it’s, it’s quite a, it’s quite a sobering thought. But the key thing is, we need to know what these things are. And we need people to chart them. And we need to be able to know where the RS the key piece actually. So you can go on and look at this, this is where find out this is a situation today. This is the bit that our company think tank maths is looking at and dealing with, there is no precision in the position of satellites, no shared precision in the way that those are knowledge. And I’m going to take you on to this. This is. So these are these are just three of the four positions here. This is one, one satellite and four position predictions. And the reason we say position predictions is because the objects that are flying around that you saw in that previous chart, again, people don’t know it’s travelling at an average of eight kilometres per second. So the time has taken me to see that imagine what distance these things have taken to go round, a little round in that orbit. So you’re predicting those positions, and you’re putting lots of things up there, and you’ve got a finite so it must be some finite limit that you get to. And this is the kind of this is the problem that we actually have. We’re talking about sustainable space. We’ve got to get a grip on this right we really have to know where things are and where they are relative to each other. And so you’ve got STRATCOM planet and Lille labs. These are three very big organisations in the USA, who produce data handy to to their government, which is handed on also to allied parties and allied countries around the world and And that are if you plot these, these distant these four positions that actually four of them that are catalogued on this one, one satellite, they are about something like 50 to 80 kilometres apart, that’s fine. If you’ve only got see 11,500 triangles to 70,000, triangle to 200,000 triangle to 500 1000s if Rwanda starts doing what they’re doing, that’s kind of like saying, We’re going to meet in Edinburgh tonight, some folks ended up in, in Glasgow, instead of coming here, you know, it’s, it’s kind of crazy. So, that’s hope that’s giving you a feel for we don’t know where there’s no common ground, and there’s no common way of, of actually, uh, calculating where something is at any given time. problem, right.
What is needed are rigorous models, orbital trajectory prediction. So that’s, you know, that’s the bit that I just said, where are they at what time and space weather forecasting, no space weather, what is that, that is you can have, you can have all sorts of so something’s going around in an orbit. And when there’s, you know, if you like, just sort of cosmic interference sort of rays coming in, or a sunburst, you know, you’ve got a solar solar flare, that creates a pocket of atmosphere. And when a satellite hits that pocket of atmosphere, it’s more dense, or it’s different, it can cause drag, so it will change its speed. And it might even change its altitude, so it could drop, so they’re dancing around with these cosmic and solar flare activity. So they, you know, put something up there, and it’s not like you build a road, and then suddenly, you know, it stays on that road, or you know exactly where it is. These things are, you know, there’s other things going on that are influencing this. So again, I’m trying to help with the Wii exchange, and even gravity variations in some of the models that are being used today to for this positioning, positional accuracy. They’re not taking into they don’t they have standard models, and they have standard assumptions of the forces of gravity. And it depends with which, you know, which altitude euro, which orbit you are on, it will depend, what was the space weather, what were the different things that came the call it perturbations, the pockets of atmosphere that they hit, and how they done surrounding that, and help, you know, let’s hope the dancer ended with smash into each other, because that is a domino effect as well. So we have been, and this is, you know, think tank mouths has been looking at this busy slide. But if you look at the central part, and the bit at the bottom, the white.is, the reference data, it is Laser Ranging, there are others, but it this is sort of the truest, somebody said less uncertain, because nobody scientists don’t like true, right, you don’t like the word true. And so, but you cannot get enough lasers to look at all of those objects that are around the planet. So, but we use this in any case, to kind of know, where if we took a satellite that there is a laser, there is a Laser Ranging set of data from and then we started reworking. The thing that said SPG for is actually the the group of calculations if you like, it’s the model that’s been used to know where things are today. And we have rethought this and come up with it. And we’re actually looking at where some of these might be anything from, you know, 100 metres to several 100 kilometres actually off where we thought they were, we with what we’ve like we’ve we’ve devised already using data, raw data and using the laser to verify we’re that cloud of blue dots. And particularly, this is the position of where we’re at. And we’re at something between 10 to 100 metres from where the Laser Ranging so it’s quite significant in contributing to what I would say the sustainability of space, really, really important. busy slide, but I hope the message came across. And I think what I’m just saying is because here’s here’s the bit, you know, we’ve there is no code of roots. I mean, I think we if we think back to, you know, 1900, when cars were on the road, there was no Highway Code, there was no rules of the road, there are no rules in space, there are no international legal treaties, to say, you know, we will only put up a certain amount. And here’s the protocol, even if two satellites are coming at each other. So, you know, we need to do all of that in the background. But we need good science and we need to be really tackling these problems and be cognizant of it as we ramp up and take advantage of things that we can put into orbit are going to help us do the fantastic things that Robin and his team are doing. Thank you very much
Thanks, Angela. And thanks, Robin and even if you’d like to come up and take a comfy seat. We’re going to take some questions. Since from the floor and online, so if you’ve got a question, please put your hand up. And we’ll have a mic at you pretty quickly.
That was fascinating. I’ve got a question, something that they’re always preoccupies me in the face of these enormous numbers of of satellites being out there. What’s the what’s the situation with the endpoints, the energy demand of doing all of this? I mean, in terms of, you’d like to translate it into carbon emissions or whatever, because you haven’t been heavy lift through the very exciting days of the of the Moon Moon launches, and the early Mercury astronauts all the way up to the present. I can’t I can never get away from the idea that this enormous slate they have the resources required to put anything up into space. Is this is this completely different now with these very small cube satellites? And the very low orbits? Am I Am I thinking? Am I completely out of date about our imagery requirements,
there is with a resolute sustainability focus. And Scotland already, as much as it’s been pointed out, we have this sustainability roadmap, and launch vehicles these days, are using different types of fuels that are more environmentally friendly. And so they’ve kind of the emissions that you see coming from the launch vehicles are not as damaging, and in some cases, not damaging at all, I’m not an expert in that area. And maybe Angela knows more than I do in that area. But we do need to be much better at how we do manage traffic on orbit. And obviously, it’s great to have companies like Think Tank maths, working alongside ISA and, and other organisations. So the more of nebulous is like a follow on question, but it’s the international collaboration part. That’s the the biggest issue, I think, really enjoy just mentioned. And that’s how do we make sure that, you know, it’s not just, you know, the UK, there’s making sure we’re doing the web use the space responsibly? Is everyone. Otherwise, there’s no point really.
I think on the on the energy side, I mean, huge amount of work has been done to limit the co2. I mean, that’s the big, you know, that’s the big issue, if you’re using standards vaca well, actually wasn’t rocket propellants in a private land prior life. But um, but you know, and so moving to hydrogen and moving to other other rocket fuels, which isn’t my domain, so I won’t dive in, dive into it. But that is part of the sustainability is let’s be, let’s, let’s not do that foolish thing that humans do, which is, we’ll just build it, and then we’ll worry about the consequences, the unintentional consequences of the future. So I do think that what Scotland has done with the sustainable mobility strategy is kind of had a hue and cry to see, you know, be careful, think about, think about what you’re doing, when you’re sending this stuff up. What are you producing a tendency to? What impact you’re going to have, when you’re up there to make sure that this thing keeps working? Because it’s a fantastic resource, but it is finite? And then what happens at the end of life of those satellites? And we’ve been touching on that as well. You know, can we just assume that if you let things drop back through the atmosphere, or not, and what impact would those have? So should we be looking at material science? So the opportunities are fantastic, because you’re saying, Well, this is a, this is a rejuvenating an industry that’s been around forever, since the 1960s. Let’s see, maybe a bit before that, and all the preparation, but here’s an opportunity to do things differently with that sustainability in mind. And, as you said, I don’t think Britain can do this on its own, and we don’t intend to, we’re working internationally with partners in France, in the USA, in in Australia, et cetera, et cetera, and the
universities, the great universities we have here in Scotland as well. Looking at different materials, looking at sustainability. You know, that’s why it’s such a really important part of the value chain for space is that companies work with universities and do the research with them as part of the whole picture. It’s not just it’s not it’s not that there’s an economic aspect to this because we want to create jobs we want to bring money into Scotland, but there’s this this we want to do that sustainably and you will be you know MBR doing which is great
Yeah, yeah, we’ve got one from online which actually kind of ties in nicely to what you were just talking about. So it’s bringing sustainability still. They said I can as eco friendly as possible ever been net zero, the space industry, or what’s the kind of what is it that you’re aiming for?
As you You can, of course continue to make huge reductions in terms of the carbon footprint of the sector in terms of manufacturing, and then launch and some of the numbers are eating 80% reductions, and more in terms of the carbon footprint. But the other side of that equation, of course, is or space data as able to contribute to the net zero, John, which will be on much, much, much bigger number by many orders of magnitude. So you need to look at that and the road that understand what the whole picture is. In the front.
Row rock satellites can set up by your Putin’s and Ross know who’s going to put the characters and the protection system you were talking about? Is it everything that’s up there? Or is it warmer, you’re able to prevent forts or you’re in the noise of their
observations? Important, right? So what you can’t observe, you cannot, you cannot catalogue and that’s, that’s, that’s, that’s a real issue. And there’s stuff that’s up there that, you know, people have forgotten. So we’re trying to see how we categorise as the category of projects that have been funded on categorization of satellites. But you asked your original part of the question was, who controls? Look, there was a United Nations recommendation on this is only a recommendation. And that’s as far as it goes at the moment. And it sort of says that, you know, anytime in the year after you’ve launched, when you’re ready, could you please make it known that you’ve put something into space? Well, with this kind of rapid growth, the speed that these things are going up, you know, it needs to be more more solid than that. And to come to the real crux, it’s a nation state is responsible and gives licences. So, you know, Starlink, for example, this is this is one that I like 20, people will say, Starlink Well, it’s Elon Musk, and he’s doing his own thing. Well, he’s, he can’t do that without licences from the US government. Right? So he is the, you know, he’s applying for licences. And he’s been accorded those licences to go up. And, and, yes, just so we will not be able to control. I mean, even if you had controls, would you control some people? But that’s always the question, right? In, yes. And, you know, there’s a new there’s a new units in the US Space Command to suit up which actually has the right to fire at other people’s satellites. I mean, that’s, that’s on the internet. But you know, so, you know, so it is quite a hot, it’s a hot thing area. But we are trying to get into the community globally, is trying to put regulation in place, so that we’re at least telling each other what’s going on, we’re sharing data. Because again, you know, you can know where things are, the US has a big catalogue of lots of the catalogues. But we’re only able to go down and actually capture anything 10 centimetres or bigger, and bits that I don’t tend to see, but a two millimetre flake of paint, travelling at eight kilometres a second, is travelling at 12 times the speed of a bullet, and will be like a pit on Kabul, hitting at 100 kilometres an hour. You’ve seen it, or you’ve seen it, and you’ve probably seen gravity as well, those kinds of things. So it’s important to know what is less than 10 centimetres, but as a species, you know, as a race, humanity does not have the capability yet to capture those potentially lots of millions of little bits that are flying around as well. So it’s, you know, it’s sort of like let’s do all of this. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves so that we’re giving yourself an uncontrollable situation in the future. That’s
it’s a quite a gentleman naive question. But the Virgin orbit satellite company universe, if I understood correctly, completely, permanently cease operation. And so as a naive person about that, you say, Oh, well, the UK space industry is not going very well, you know, but is it? Could it be an opportunity for Scotland then to say, Well, we are here actually, it’s because I think in the world, or in Europe, it’s so Oh, they don’t do very much in UK. But it seems that there’s a lot going on in Scotland, despite you know, big company has stopped operation.
The commercial decision to put a halt to Virgin orbit near operations, but they clearly are focused on the Virgin Galactic. And they’re doing lots of of launches at the moment and let space tourism seems to be their thing. Maybe they’ve decided to focus on that. One of the things about launching a rocket from a plane means that you need to have at least one pilot on board and maybe some support crew. Therefore the safety regulations you need to follow probably a lot tougher, and stick in a rocket launch pad and standard mail back So I can imagine that pushes the cost up quite a bit. So it’s probably a tougher market to then get contracts for launching satellites. And not to say that it can’t be successful. I can’t say it won’t be. But it’s great that you’ve got both in Scotland. So having vertical launch from a WordPad is a big bonus virus here. And it’s the only place in Europe
is there any way we can clean up some of this space junk? There are companies that are doing that. And there’s lots of money the European Space Agency is putting in UK spaces is putting these is part of for Scottish strategy roadmap for sustainability as well. What is the technology to do that? I mean, you have a company called Astro scale, et cetera, who’s, you know, they’ve got projects to capture, and it’s the capturing, you know, going up and actually, with claws grabbing ahold of big satellites. And, you know, if you speak to the people from from Isa from the European Space Agency, they’ll say, Well, if we take those big old rocket bodies, and those big all the different things, which we’ll break into many pieces, then you’re bringing down the probability, because they’re bigger targets, but also they will break into lots of smaller pieces. So there’s a good place perhaps to start the cleaning up the space junk that we’ve already created. And the smallest piece I don’t think anybody’s people are talking about, you know, can you go round with magnets? I mean, like, you know, there’s all of that has to be discovered. This is the exciting thing. That’s why we have to get the next generation of engineers and scientists sort of involved because, you know, if we’re going to do this, we need to with, with speed, and with pace, we need to be rethinking and inventing new stuff to to manage this already from where we are today. But yes, you can beat up on all of that. There’s lots and lots of space.
Another one online.
Online, I think this might be directed a bit at Robin and Ivan potentially, saying many of the talks and sort of engagement on statements spent there Scotland, space industry, or technical focused? How is the industry and companies seeking to collaborate with the arts and humanities as a tool to help engage the public and let them know what you’re up to?
Yeah, that’s certainly I think I need for communication with the our PR wrote about this. And it was kind of interesting, because I met Randall, I’m a journalist last week. And the thing he wanted to talk about was, how did we get more or less stuff out there, sort of the business conversation and the media, which, frankly, gets quite narrow, and some quite specific sectors and quite specific issues? How’d you get more people talking about this about the life science sector, FinTech about, well, some aspects of renewables, etc, that are hugely exciting. And so I think that’s upside job to be done to make the sector understand zone take that responsibility as well, but more broadly, government and elsewhere to be able to make sure we’re project that as much as possible.
Yeah, I think there have been really interesting noteworthy initiatives that have happened locally in Scotland and elsewhere, and our company Trading Spaces looked a lot at how do we leverage graphic design skills that are here locally? How do we work with people that build computer games and video games, to help us to visualise the kind of dashboards that we’re trying to sell as a company, to businesses to manage their supply chains. You know, a lot of these kinds of video games have really interest in endgame economies that look an awful lot like a satellite services dashboard. So I think there is work to be done and trying to merge these things together. And there was some good work done around that, that Scottish Enterprise supported to try and bring the creative industries into the fold.
And I think that, like people forget that engineering is a creative subject. So creativity is a massive part of what’s happened in Scotland. visualisation of you know, where the sector can go, what satellites will look like, what they can do, how they can be used, that’s create less creativity. And it’s whether it be drawing or painting. Robin and I go a long way back and Robin used to work at Clay space. And we had stripping out on the walls from Rogue Weiner, who does a lot of work in Glasgow, things like that just inspire people just and also I read a tweet from Elon Musk, and that his favourite sci fi author was in banks. So and he’s also mean, so I mean, it clearly has good taste. But guys that are inspired by science fiction, which is is obviously very creative too, because it’s like, what does the future look like in space? And if you do read science fiction, actually, a lot of that’s coming through. So there’s a lot of links.
I think the other thing I’d say is we talked about the legal aspect, when someone was asking about the regulation, you know, space law. And if you’re doing law at the moment, get into space law, because you know, like, there’s all sorts of, there’s everything to be written. And they’re all the treaties and agreements that need to be written, as we’ve just described here today, it’s just a, it’s a void at the moment, it’s not a void, there are people working hard, but to pull it together, and diplomacy, and you know, all of those things. So we need human skills, and we need a lot of creativity, and a lot of personal skills to be able to make this work. We have a question. Yes.
Thank you very much. Just on the Earth observation, front, it occurs to me that a lot of what happens there is based on like pattern matching, which is, of course, an area where new technologies and trends in terms of AI are becoming more and more prevalent. Is that something that does Scotland have the the skills and ability to leverage that sort of fusion of two really out there technologies,
you’ve hit the nail on the head, this is evolving really quickly. Humans are being removed from the loop to create these AI algorithms that we use to train on images to count things, quantify things. And there are companies and businesses in Scotland that create those kinds of AI systems that analyse the images, and the one that springs to mind Eric blocks, I think, based here in Edinburgh, they have a tool that can do that, and can generate algorithms for you to look at various different in our case, we really are mainly interested in crops, but could be other things as well. For example, counting the number of cars in the shopping mall carpark. That’s the kind of oft cited example, isn’t it? By VC communities. But there are the skills to merge these things together and Scotland. Yeah, it’s happening. I think manual coding to apply that to satellite images will be gone. And three or four years, it’ll all be done by AI.
Got your next? Two or three more?
Thank you. Thanks, son. Okay, I’m sorry to take another question. Defensively, I find it amazing to be alive and discover that Scotland has this amazing space potential is and that it’s unique? Is it? I know, there’s lots of people talking about many different launch sites, I think from Shetland, possibly the Western Isles, but other parts of Scotland. What is it? Because some? Is it because I know it’s an I think it’s to do with polar orbits. Is that right? And I think it’s to do with there being lots of empty ocean or sea space to the north of it. But I mean, there’s there are other places as there’s Norway in this Japan and the soul of Soviet Russia. What is why why do we I mean, is it just us? Because because we’re Scottish, we think it’s has this incredible potential is? Is this going on in other countries as well? Or is it what is the how would you describe it? How would you explain it?
Generally, Overland? And there’s been a few cases of their launch vehicles fail, failing and landing and no, not so good places over the years, which, so as you need to be very careful with your launch, basically. But I think it’s more a case have just got the bit between their teeth and are going for the moment. And one of the things I was going to ask Ivan, but if there wasn’t any questions, but I think one of the really important factors about the Scottish space sector is that we’re very economically focused, focusing jobs, and creating wealth and drawing like, like, export to coordinate, exporting our capability overseas. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not mean as much as I love an astronaut, when it’s not about astronauts, and then human spaceflight and, you know, I love going it’s exploring other planets and moons and stuff like that. But really, it’s about creating jobs. And that’s, that’s a baseline for what we’re doing.
In Shetland is pretty far up. I mean, we’ll get other places that’ll have other purpose. And yes, that’s the open space and you were right. So if you get 16 potential orbits up there at that, at that top, you know, whereas the equator you get once round, right, Shelton’s got about 14 of those 16 daily. The thing and also the climate and equivalent space if you like, or, or location in Norway, and or in Oran, you know, north of Russia and Siberia, it’s pretty cold. Whereas we have got Gulf Stream, provided it continues turning. And therefore it’s much more temperate as well. But I think the economic drivers, we’ve just got very determined people in the in the various space ports that are decided that they’re going for this and they’ve built international relationships to meet them.
Right economic focus is hugely Central, I suppose. And I And if you think of this sector, historically, globally, has been government money going in for defence, security and all kinds or moonshots and whatever I’m, we’re looking at a different lens, which is what is a sector do is to be able to contribute to GDP growth, job opportunities, export potential, so for it to be generating economic value to the community is hugely important. And just on your flight passes tell a funny story, the urate Shetlands, Kenny got clear run. North Sutherland has got the limits and there is a few islands and explain this this West space delegation at one point. And one of the guys leaned over and he said, No, I understand. The Federal us let you fire your satellite your rockets over their airspace, and you sometimes let them draw with your football.
For when what is that, I think?
Firstly, thanks so much. It’s been a really insightful presentation. And it was one question but there’s kind of two parts to it if you if you allow me, Andy Campbell from the Scottish Space Network, Ivan, it was fantastic to hear you recognise the importance of inspiring our young people to take careers in STEM I was involved in the Mission Discovery programme, which has already seen experiments from high schools and Renfrewshire and inverclyde carried out on the International Space Station. So first part of the question is because we’ve identified talent as being really important as what more can we do, as a sector to inspire young people to choose STEM related subjects and careers into the space sector? And secondly, if you’re able to address this one, clearly, we’ve got huge economic ambitions for the growth of the space sector in Scotland, there will be challenges along the way. What do we think is the number one challenge the space sector communicate community can address?
I think they’re both the same thing I’m answer. The second part is talent. And it’s said it’s locally grown. And there’s been a magnet for attracting talent from the rest of the UK, which is easy, because there’s no immigration challenges. And we can do that straight away. And I was a big focus on that. But then, and internationally, as well. And it’s great the stuff that’s happening in schools, and it’s how that gets scaled up. And I suppose a lot of that is down to the schools understand that it’s there, and their careers force and the schools understand that it’s there, and getting enthused by it. So I think now, we only start to turn slowly, and hopefully that will gain momentum. But it’s, it’s difficult. And I’m out of those conversations with teachers in my own constituency that are focused on on this career paths for young people and subject choices. But that jump from how’d you get. So in sort of studying maths through, you want to work in the space sector, frankly, will probably not go there, the mental join up of all that yet within schools and ignites something that needs to be what are through the education services? Well,
I think that establishments, like the Royal Society of Edinburgh do a great job of reaching out to young people, and teaching them about what’s happened, especially in sectors like the space sector, we’ve got such a high number of people working in the space sector know that one of the things that we’re trying to do is be Scotland, is to get some of the people employed within the sector to go into at least going to the school they came from, and talk to the young people either in s one or S two or P seven. And so that they can get an idea that this is something that they can do. And you know, like people like myself, I mean, I came from I went to green Falls High in coming out, you know, it wasn’t like a private education or anything, no clue where my career was gonna go. And we’re just like, seeing the opportunity that is there for them. If they just apply themselves in, maybe they don’t need to go to university, there’s so many different opportunities to go to college, you know, they can build this athletes meet technicians, they can work in the office, they can there’s so many different parts of the space sector that you know, in different talents that we need. And I think another thing that I even alluded to, is that you know, building satellites and in feniton is great, but you don’t get to see it very much in but see once we start launching satellites and rockets from Scotland that’s going to really capture people’s attention. And I think they’ll change things I think that says for this evening, thank you very much for joining us online and for coming along to listen to us babble on about space. I hope you enjoyed yourself
I should say. I think I’m switched off but thank you guys for coming along during the panel.