The University of Bristol is home to a large multidisciplinary community of over 100 space researchers across multiple Faculties, with involvement in a wide range of research activities including Mars Lander projects, climate modelling using satellite imagery and biological models in a lunar environment. The University hosts the Space Universities Network, is represented on several high-level UK and international space associations as well as Co-chairing the Space Academic Network (SPAN).
Academics use satellite data and technologies alongside data science and machine learning to monitor greenhouse gases, volcanic plumes, ground deformation and earthquakes, meteorological processes, Arctic ice melt, sea surface modelling, and to support flood and climate modelling. The University became a Met Office Academic Partner (MOAP) in 2020, with a particular focus on ‘hazards and risks’. The partnership benefits from a dedicated collaborative team who facilitate accelerating scientific research into societal impacts. The Cabot Institute brings together a multdisciplinary research community to protect the environment and identify ways of living better with the changing environment. They have six research themes
· Low Carbon Energy
· Environmental Change
· Food Security
· City Futures
· Natural Hazards and Disaster Risk
Academics are working to create global, secure and resilient satellite communications. The University hosts a broad array of communications research within the Communications and Systems Network Group and where expertise in optical, wireless, IoT and cloud technologies enables end-to-end design and optimisation. Industrial collaborations are seeking to define the next generation of 5G architecture, converging terrestrial and satellite networks. The world renowned QETlabs brings together the broader quantum and related activity at Bristol to maximise opportunities for new science discoveries. Key space related projects include two different quantum communication CubeSats, designed to provide mathematically perfect security, building both the optical communication satellites (6U and 12U) and the optical ground stations.
The Bristol Cybersecurity Group is part of the Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research (ACE-CSR). The group conducts cutting edge research focused on three over-arching but interlinked strands: security of cyber-physical infrastructures, software security and the role of human behaviours in cyber security. This includes projects looking at sophisticated cyber attacks against space infrastructure, such as Global Navigation Satellite Systems which provide positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) services. It is also the new home to the Research Institute for Sociotechnical Cyber Security (RISCS) – one of the oldest of the National Cyber Security Centre’s research institutes.
Systems and Control in Space
Research on space systems and control at the University covers a wide range of systems and components, including spacecraft and satellite design, robotics and biological systems in space. Research is being carried out into the design of interplanetary spacecraft systems, very low earth orbit spacecraft and deployable devices. These systems also include power solutions for extreme-environments such as space. The university is home to the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, the largest academic centre for multi-disciplinary robotics research in the UK. This comprises of a vibrant community of 300 academics, researchers, and industrial practitioners. It is a collaborative partnership between the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England and is an internationally recognised Centre of Excellence in robotics. Many of the projects within the centre are aligned with space innovation including aerial robots, assistive robotics, bio-energy and self-sustaining systems, bio-mimetic and neuro-robotics, connected autonomous vehicles, medical robotics, robots for hazardous environments, robot teleoperation, robot vision, smart automation, soft and tactile robotics. Our research is not limited to inorganic systems, researchers are also investigating biological models in the lunar environment.
In Orbit Manufacture and Materials for Space
The University is home to the Bristol Composites Institute (ACCIS), which combines cutting-edge science with strong industrial links for exploitation and technology transfer. ACCIS brings together composites activities across the university, which focuses upon materials, structures and manufacturing design. Researchers are developing novel and advanced materials for extreme environments such as space. Technologies are being developed to maximise the resilience, effectiveness and value for money of the materials used in space. Some of these novel composites have been selected to be part of the European Material Ageing Programme, flying on the International Space Station in 2022. Research is also being carried out into the mechanical performance of structures, both developing numerical modelling techniques and experimental investigation for material structures used in space. Work also focuses upon the manufacture of materials, from innovate material forms to developing machinery using cutting-edge technology.
Space Domain Awareness
The developed world is becoming increasingly dependent on satellite networks. Yet satellites are vulnerable to both natural and artificial hazards such as space debris, space weather, cyber-attacks and anti-satellite weapons. Our researchers are working on the detection, identification, and tracking of objects in space, as well as understanding the effects of space weather. This research has been centered around data science, sensing and systems technologies. We have been working on how currently available information sources and tools could be used to allow users of satellite services to estimate risks to the infrastructure that they rely upon. We have been working with risk modelling SME ‘Riskaware’ and power grid SME ‘Sygensys’ to identify critical points in the chain of infrastructure. It is hoped that this improved threat model will help agencies, companies and government learn more about the key vulnerabilities of space systems. This work has been supported by The Jean Golding Institute (JGI). The JGI is a hub for data science and data-intensive research at the University of Bristol, which connects a multidisciplinary community of experts across the University. Expertise in Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning has helped to facilitate Space Domain Awareness research.