Science and Technology Facilities Council
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New agreement strengthens UK space sector

Two world-leading scientific institutions from the UK yesterday joined forces to strengthen their support for the nation’s rapidly-growing multi-billion pound space sector.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) have signed an agreement to bring together their expertise in measuring and testing instruments for satellites.

The UK’s space sector is currently worth more than £13.7billion and employs more than 38,000 people, and the services provided under this new agreement are critical to the continued success of this industry.

Dr Brian Bowsher, CEO of STFC said: “We are delighted to be working with such a centre of excellence as the NPL in furthering the advancement of satellite calibration. The satellite industry is thriving in the UK and we are proud to be at the forefront of this sector. By sharing our expertise and building on those strengths, we are putting the UK on the map as a global leader in satellite testing.”

The agreement sets out the opportunities for collaboration between NPL, the UK’s National Measurement Institute, and STFC’s RAL Space, home to the UK Centre for Calibration of Satellite Instrumentation.  The Centre combines the strengths of industry and academia, and RAL Space scientists and engineers are currently playing a crucial role in the calibration of the Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR) on the ESA/EU Sentinel-3 mission.

Opportunities for collaboration could include developing joint satellite calibration facilities and collaborations on measurement products, facilities and support services as part of the recently announced £99million National Satellite Testing Facility that is being built at RAL Space.

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed at an event at RAL Space by Dr Brian Bowsher and Dr Peter Thompson, CEO of NPL.

Dr Thompson said: “The explosion of data from satellite based instrumentation is transforming every sector and promises great economic and social benefits. Good measurement is vital in delivering these, from creating new instrumentation and calibration technology to improve the accuracy of data collection, to providing traceability and standards to ensure data can be used and applied with confidence. By working more closely with STFC, we can further support the UK space industry in taking a world-leading role in satellite technology and services, and accelerating the impact they will have.”

Dr Chris Mutlow, Director of STFC RAL Space said: “Both RAL Space and NPL have a proud heritage in satellite calibration, measurement and instrumentation development. This agreement will help us build on our expertise, sharing knowledge as well as access to our world class facilities. I look forward to the future innovations that co-operation with our new partners will bring.”

More information available on the RAL Space website: Bringing together UK excellence in satellite calibration.



RAL Space is an integral part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council's (STFC) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL). RAL Space carries out world-class space research and technology development with involvement in over 210 space missions.


NPL is the UK’s National Measurement Institute, providing the measurement capability that underpins the UK's prosperity and quality of life.

From new antibiotics to tackle resistance and more effective cancer treatments, to unhackable quantum communications and superfast 5G, technological advances must be built on a foundation of reliable measurement to succeed. Building on over a century’s worth of expertise, our science, engineering and technology provides this foundation and helps to make the impossible possible. We save lives, protect the environment and enable citizens to feel safe and secure, as well as support international trade and commercial innovation. As a national laboratory, our advice is always impartial and independent, meaning consumers, investors, policymakers and entrepreneurs can always rely on the work we do.

Based in Teddington, south-west London, NPL employs over 500 scientists and is home to 388 of the world’s most extensive and sophisticated laboratories. NPL also has regional bases across the UK, including at the University of Surrey, the University of Strathclyde, the University of Cambridge and the University of Huddersfield's 3M Buckley Innovation Centre.


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