Space West - May Newsletter

31 May 2024

News from the cluster

Welcome to the May 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.

Earthcare Mission and Thales Alenia Space Bristol

With the launch of ESA’s EarthCARE mission at the end of this month it was great to see Nigel Wright’s blog post highlighting the leadership, expertise and tenacity of the SEA team in Bristol in winning the bid to lead the delivery of the BroadBand Radiometer (BBR) on the Earthcare mission. Equipped with four instruments, the Earth Cloud Aerosol and Radiation Explorer (EarthCARE) satellite mission has been designed to make a range of different measurements that together will shed new light on the role that clouds and aerosols play in regulating Earth’s climate.

The Bristol team came to provide not just one of the four instruments on EarthCARE but also made key contributions to the other three instruments. A very significant achievement for the team in Bristol. The total contract value was in excess of 30 Million Euros and this represented approx. 10% of the spacecraft by value. In 2015 Thales Alenia Space (TAS) acquired the SEA space division and the EarthCARE work was completed under the TAS UK banner.

ESA’s EarthCARE satellite embarked on its journey into space on 29 May at 00:20 CEST (28 May, 15:20 local time) aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, US.  Ten minutes after liftoff, EarthCARE separated from the rocket as this footage shows, which was captured by a camera on the rocket.

SWAN and Space West host successful networking event in Bristol

The South West Aerospace Network (SWAN) made a triumphant return to Bristol in May, partnering with Space West for an exceptional networking evening. This relaxed and informal gathering allowed space professionals and enthusiasts to connect and exchange ideas.



Rebecca Huffee highlights cyber opportunities at CyberICE Conference

Space West Cluster Manager, Rebecca Huffee, attended the the Swindon and Wiltshire Cyber Cluster's CyberICE Conference 3.0 in Swindon. Rebecca presented at the event, discussing exciting opportunities for integrating cyber technologies into the space sector. Cyber and space are naturally linked and by bringing together people and ideas we can help enable the security of our space assets. 




Rebecca Huffee represents Space West at Bath Digital Festival

Rebecca Huffee, Space West Cluster Manager attended and spoke at the Bath Digital Festival on two insightful panels on ‘Big Debate - Innovation, Opportunity and Ownership’ and ‘What right does Bath have to talk about Space?’


Spotlight on Matsuura Machinery 

Check out our 'Spotlight' on section to discover stand out companies making waves in the regions space industry. Learn about innovations, achievements, products and contributions to the field. 

Matsuura Machinery Ltd are award winning resellers of premium multi-axes and fully automated CNC machine tools, 3D printers and AM post processing systems.

Operating from a state of the art facility in North West Leicestershire, over the past 30 years Matsuura have established themselves as market leaders for leading edge manufacturing technology, whilst offering Applications, Materials, Service, Spares support and a customer experience that is second to none in the UK CNC and 3D technology supply chain.

With an enviable end user customer list in both CNC and AM, Matsuura customers span the entire spectrum of UK manufacturing; from owner operators to multi-national blue chip companies.

The Matsuura UK product portfolio includes HP MJF 3D printers – with over 90 customer machines under Matsuura care in the UK manufacturing supply chain, as well as DyeMansion post-processing systems for turning raw 3D parts into highly finished, high value components and products.

Matsuura’s Additive Manufacturing Centre in Leicestershire is regarded as a UK centre of excellence for 3D printing and post-processing, serving our customers as a total life care support hub for their growing 3D manufacturing businesses.

Immersive “Additive Manufacturing Experience Days” are available at the Matsuura AMC for UK manufacturers who are thinking of dipping their toes into the world of 3D / AM production, offering a full day, free of charge, for companies to send their production team on a deep dive “sales free” technology exposure day.

A similar offering is made for UK CNC manufacturers who are looking for a deeper understanding of multi-pallet 5 axis technology and the “lights-out” unmanned manufacturing strategies employed to maximise operational profitability.

Engineering is at the heart of the Matsuura ethos of customer service, and Matsuura UK pride themselves on their deep understanding of manufacturing processes, its associated technology and effective production strategies.


Research in Focus

Explore academic research happening right here in the region. Stay informed about the latest advancements and contributions from our local scientific and engineering community. 

Disaster Risk Reduction from Space

Volcanoes are both visually spectacular and inherently dangerous. Whilst volcanoes can threaten communities in many ways, hazardous flows are often the most worrying, particularly lahars and pyroclastic density current (PDC). Lahars are mudslides often triggered by heavy rain while PDCs are avalanches of hot gas and ash that travel at incredible speeds downslope, destroying everything in their path. These two hazards are responsible for about 60% of all volcanic fatalities.

In June 2018 a PDC killed hundreds of people in San Miguel Los Lotes, a community south of the summit of Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala. To reduce the risk of similar future events causing fatalities, modelling can be used to predict flow runout and critically, suggest where the flows might exit the valleys they typically travel  down. The landscape changes rapidly: valleys can fill during PDC events in hours, and a few days of heavy rain can carve new channels through the generation of lahars. Therefore, there is a balance between how fast volcanic material is emplaced and removed.

We retroactively investigated the 2018 event by using satellite and drone-based images to create digital elevation models of the terrain. This work was prompted by a radar image acquired during the Disasters Charter call (figure 1)  that showed  second pyroclastic flow headed West into a different valley but whose run out was shortened significantly by the flow making a very sharp right and then left hand turn.

Our work showed that the valley, which was being quickly eroded in early 2017, completely filled with material during a PDC event in May of that year. Heavy rains that year, associated with La Niña, carved out a new channel, which, during the 2018 event redirected the PDC away from population centres and up a steep slope (Figures 2), slowing the flow considerably and causing it to come to rest well before anyone was threatened.

Our research highlights both the dynamism of the landscape in the Guatemalan cordillera and the vital importance of terrain measurements in predicting future disasters. It also demonstrates the vital need for timely terrain data, as changes can occur rapidly and dramatically change the impact of hazardous flows. Students at the University of Bristol are working on this problem on a mission called PROVE (Pointable Radiometer for Observing Volcanic Emissions), a multi-angle imaging system that is designed to resolve both as grounds and, critically in this case, the Earth’s surface.


Ben Ireland is a PhD student in the School of Earth Sciences interested in building systematic global catalogues of volcano deformation events and investigating the links between magmatic processes and ground deformation patterns using machine learning approaches (largely clustering methods). He is also involved in projects on volcanic hazards, geomorpholgical change, science communication and disaster preparedness.

Professor Matthew Watson is a volcanologist at the University of Bristol known for his extensive research on volcanic hazards and the interaction between volcanic eruptions, the atmosphere and the environment. His research primarily focuses on understanding volcanic processes, particularly the dynamics of volcanic plumes and clouds. He investigates the impact of volcanic ash on aviation, using remote sensing technologies to monitor volcanic activity. including the use of satellites and other airborne instruments to track and analyse volcanic emissions.


Space West 2024 Activity Page

Stay connected and witness our exciting endeavors throughout the year. Explore upcoming events, collaborative initiatives, and engaging projects.


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