Space West Newsletter

28 March 2024

News from the cluster

Welcome to the March edition of our Space West Newsletter. With each newsletter, we aim to share the most recent discoveries, advancements, and stories from the world of Space in the South West.

About Space West

Space West is a regional consortium of academic and industry partners designed to accelerate growth and innovation in the space sector within the region and nationally. The Space West programme is hosted by the National Composites Centre, in partnership with West of England Combined Authority, the Centre for Modelling and Simulation, the University of Bath, the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England.

Satellite Applications Catapult visits Space West 

This month we were delighted to welcome John Abbott, the CEO of Satellite Applications Catapult, to the National Composites Centre, the home of Space West!

John's visit marked an important moment for Space West as we showcased the vibrant space industry thriving in our region. During his visit, John had the opportunity to meet with key members of our space cluster, tour the Bristol Robotics Laboratory and dive deep into discussions about the latest innovations and breakthroughs shaping the industry. The afternoon saw Space West convene regional stakeholders from industry, academia and public sector for a ‘Secure and Resilient Communications’ Roundtable which explored how the region’s excellence in cybersecurity, communications and semiconductors could be leveraged to deliver space-enabled secure and resilient communications. Thanks to Martin McHugh, CEO Semiconductors Catapult for chairing this and summarising so well the opportunity presented for this region in space.

The visit was closed with a drinks reception, kindly hosted by the University of West of England where academics, startups and established companies, were able to present on their activities and capabilities within the region helping showcase the remarkable work being done in the South West.

Additionally, as part of the visit, a Secure and Resilient Communications round table was chaired by the CEO of the Compound Semiconductor Applications (CSA) CatapultMartin McHugh. This session generated excellent ideas for leveraging regional capabilities around which Space West can convene collaborations and activities.

Thank you to CSA Catapult and Bristol Robotics Laboratory for their support on this visit. We're excited to continue working together with Satellite Applications Catapult and other partners to propel the space industry to new heights! 

Space-Comm Expo – Exploring the commercial future of Space for business

Rebecca Huffee, Space West Cluster Manager attended Space-Comm. The Space-Comm Expo gathers space, aerospace, defence, downstream and upstream industries for two days of high-level networking, discussions, education and business, focused on the commercial future of space.

Space West participated in Airbus Defence and Space’s roundtable, a cross disciplinary discussion and problem solving session to help build momentum and stimulate action around skills challenges and collaborative opportunities in technology, capability, regional development, social impacts and exports.  The roundtable is part of Airbus Defence and Space recently launched Community for Space Prosperity (CUSP) partnership programme designed to help recognise, value and boost its investment in space prosperity across the UK space sector.

Space West’s regional cluster manager promoted the region’s vibrant ecosystem highlighting R&D opportunities surrounding the forthcoming ISAMBARD facilities as well making connections for businesses working in the region with the wider space community.


Thank you to all of those who joined us for our CyberSpark workshop, aimed at developing a roadmap of activities that harnesses the region’s strengths in cybersecurity and space to fill the gaps and prepare for future technology enablement’s within the space domain. 

We were joined by speakers from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Airbus Defence and Space, CGI and the University of Bristol and brought together industry, SMEs, government and regulators to explore and define actions. This workshop brought out some clear opportunities for both small scale interventions, like making more visible to cybersecurity communities the architectures that are used within satellite communication systems to large scale interventions around regulation.  The workshop was designed and delivered by the Satellite Applications Catapult in partnership with Space West.

Space Census – Don’t forget to have your say

Join Space West in supporting the launch of the 2024 Space Census 

Organised by the Space Skills Alliance, the census is for people working in the space sector, engineers, marketers, academics and PhD students, recruiters, and more. Participation in the census will contribute to shaping a more inclusive and dynamic space sector. Let's work together to drive positive change.

Visit to have your say and make sure your voice is heard.

Space West joins panel at National Students Space Conference

Rebecca HuffeeSpace West Cluster Manager joined space cluster leads including Louise ButtSpace South Centre, Joaquin Perez Grande, Satellite Applications Catapult on a panel entitled: An Introduction to UK Space Clusters at this years National students space conference.

It was refreshing to see such a diverse student community and Space West’s cluster manager was delighted by the enthusiasm and activitism of students seeking to leverage space technologies to address global challenges around energy transition, climate change mitigation and unsettled global politics and humanitarian disaster.

Harnessing these articulate and passionate voices is critical in championing space and addressing the gap that exists in the public consciousness and education around the value of space.

Spotlight on Foot Anstey LLP

Foot Anstey is a leading, full service national law firm with a team of specialists who focus on supporting businesses in the space & satellite sector.

Working in and supporting the growth of the UK space and satellite industry, Foot Anstey is one of the few law firms in the UK with the experience, ambition and expertise necessary to provide specialist legal support to space sector businesses and organisations, both upstream and downstream.

Foot Anstey is supporting the development of space clusters and ecosystems across the UK, in line with the National Space Strategy. At the forefront of the latest legal and commercial developments in the space sector, from assessing the impact of the National Security and Investment Act on your organisation to getting your space business investment ready, Foot Anstey harnesses the skills and capabilities of expert lawyers to serve the needs of space sector businesses and organisations.

Foot Anstey has supported nationally significant space projects, working with organisations such as Spaceport Cornwall, Space Engine Systems Ltd, Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd, Piran Composites, Space Professionals and Aspia Space to name a few.

Foot Anstey is a member of key space organisations such as the Space Energy Initiative and is a thought leader providing regular insights for example through our Thinking Global podcast series and speaking at the Space Sustainability Conference in Edinburgh last year.

Foot Anstey provides bespoke legal advice and solutions to support upstream & downstream commercial space sector projects, including:

  • satellite earth stations               
  • spaceports
  • space and satellite supply chain
  • advanced manufacturing
  • satellite enabled applications
  • local authorities.

Foot Anstey offers a broad range of specialist solutions across multiple areas of legal practice, ranging from regulatory, intellectual property to real estate and infrastructure development, to find out more about their services visit their website.

Supporting entrepreneurial businesses

Foot Anstey has recently launched its very own business accelerator programme “Foot Anstey Enterprise”, supporting entrepreneurial businesses operating across the space, energy and marine-tech sectors to optimise their opportunities and achieve their ambitions.  In addition to providing discounted legal and business support, Foot Anstey also provide a range of added value services, including using their own networks and contacts to help businesses grow through making connections across sectors. 

To find out more, visit our website or contact us directly to set up a chat by emailing John Catchpole ([email protected]), Foot Anstey Partner and head of Foot Anstey's Space and Satellite Team.

Research in Focus

Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) is the most comprehensive academic centre for multi-disciplinary robotics research in the UK. It is a collaborative partnership between the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and the University of Bristol, and home to a vibrant community of over 450 academics, researchers and industry practitioners.

Joe Louca is a researcher at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory working with Antonia Tzemanaki, an Assistant Professor in Robotics at the University of Bristol and their work has addresses the key difficulty that robotics in space face around latency.

Teleoperation allows us to bring human decision-making to hard-to-reach places. This will be a key enabler for the next steps of the space industry, such as in-orbit servicing and manufacture of spacecraft, orbital debris management, and in-situ resource utilisation on the Lunar surface. The problem, still yet to be overcome, is how best to perform tasks with the significant communication delays over these distances.

When delays are present, there is an unavoidable delegation of responsibility from the operator to the robot, and for this is to occur smoothly, the operator must trust that the robot will behave as intended.

Through conversations with expert operators of teleoperated robots from other applications, we have identified a list of requirements for what would constitute a trustworthy teleoperation system. Surprisingly, technical features such force-feedback were not prioritised by operators. Instead, they preferred user-centric approaches to build trust, such as providing low risk training environments to become familiar with their systems [DOI: 10.3389/fnbot.2023.1187264]. We are now exploring these requirements experimentally to determine their impact on trustworthiness and performance.

We conducted a user study which confirmed that, although it offers clear benefits without delays, providing force-feedback in delayed systems can actually be counterproductive "Impact of Haptic Feedback in High Latency Teleoperation for Space Applications”, accepted in Transactions on Human-Robot Interaction (08/-Feb-2024). Following this, we will investigate whether using a more subtle form of haptic feedback through haptic gloves is more compatible with delays.

Looking towards the Moon, which is of particular interest considering the many Lunar lander missions currently underway, the best-case scenario delays will be 2.6 seconds. So, how can we capture the benefits of haptic feedback under these challenging conditions?

One option may be to operate the robot via a real-time simulation – the operator controls a virtual robot in a virtual world, and real robot on the Moon’s surface copies these movements. If the virtual world is accurate enough, then this could be used to provide force-feedback to help guide the operator. With this in mind, we have experimentally verified a virtual model of lunar regolith to determine how accurately it represents the real world [DOI: 10.3389/frspt.2024.1303964].

In collaboration with the European Space Agency, we are integrating this model with a robot arm test-bed to build a lunar regolith handling system. This could be used to provide stable haptic feedback which is robust to communication delays, or as a low-risk virtual training environment to prepare users for the challenges of operating on the lunar surface.

Link to our lab:]

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