UK government investing over £100 million in the space industry to ensure the UK remains a world leader in space tech

The UK government has revealed how investing in the space industry will form a key part of its strategy for boosting economic growth.

At the heart of the government’s strategy is a pledge to invest £99 million to create a National Satellite Testing Facility (NSTF) and another £4 million investment for a new National Space Propulsion Facility (NSPF).

The UK government hopeS the significant funding boost will enable the space industry to competitively bid for more national and international contracts and ensure it remains a world-leader for space technologies for decades to come.

“From Cornwall to the Highlands and islands of Scotland, the UK space sector underpins industries worth more than £250 billion to the UK economy, and through our Industrial Strategy we will unlock the sector’s potential to grow further,” said Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson.

“Located in a cluster known for research excellence, these new facilities will help UK companies be more competitive in the global market for space technology and support our ambition to capture 10% of the global space market by 2030.”

Due to open in early 2020, the new NSTF is described as a “world-class facility” for the assembly, integration and testing of space instruments and satellites.

By investing in the NSTF, the UK government believes it will be able to capitalise on the estimated 3,500 to 10,000 satellites that are due to be launched by 2025.

The UK government’s investment will also facilitate the build of bigger and more technologically advanced satellites and remove the need for UK companies to use test facilities located abroad.

“This investment will enhance the capability of the UK space industry,” said Dr Graham Turnock, chief executive of the UK Space Agency.

“Having access to a National Satellite Testing Facility will help companies develop and encourage new business to come the UK, while the development of new facilities at Westcott builds on what is already a world-class UK space propulsion sector.”

SABRE engine courtesy of Reaction Engines

The £4 million investment in the NSPF will allow companies and academia to test and develop space propulsion engines, alongside a new facility for Reaction Engines where the revolutionary SABRE air-breathing rocket engine will also be tested and built.

SABRE – Synergetic Air Breathing Rocket Engine – is a new class of engine for propelling both high speed aircraft and spacecraft.

Unlike jet engines, which are only capable of powering a vehicle up to Mach 3, three times the speed of sound, SABRE engines are capable of Mach 5.4 in air-breathing mode, and Mach 25 in rocket mode for space flight.

On its website, Sabre’s creators, Reaction Engines, says it aims to test a fully integrated engine core at the NSPF test site in 2020, which is the crucial step towards a SABRE powered flight test vehicle.

Robot takes first steps towards building artificial lifeforms

A robot equipped with sophisticated AI has successfully simulated the creation of artificial lifeforms, in a key first step towards the eventual goal of creating true artificial life.

The robot, which was developed by scientists at the University of Glasgow, was able to model the creation of artificial lifeforms using unstable oil-in-water droplets. These droplets effectively played the role of living cells, demonstrating the potential of future research to develop living cells based on building blocks that cannot be found in nature.

Significantly, the robot also successfully predicted their properties before they were created, even though this could not be achieved using conventional physical models.

The robot, which was designed by Glasgow University’s Regius Chair of Chemistry, Professor Lee Cronin, is driven by machine learning and the principles of evolution.

It has been developed to autonomously create oil-in-water droplets with a host of different chemical makeups and then use image recognition to assess their behaviour.

Using this information, the robot was able to engineer droplets to have different properties­. Those which were found to be desirable could then be recreated at any time, using a specific digital code.

“This work is exciting as it shows that we are able to use machine learning and a novel robotic platform to understand the system in ways that cannot be done using conventional laboratory methods, including the discovery of ‘swarm’ like group behaviour of the droplets, akin to flocking birds,” said Cronin.

“Achieving lifelike behaviours such as this are important in our mission to make new lifeforms, and these droplets may be considered ‘protocells’ – simplified models of living cells.”

One of the oil droplets created by the robot

The research, which is published today in the journal PNAS, is one of several research projects being undertaken by Cronin and his team within the field of artificial lifeforms.

While the overarching goal is moving towards the creation of lifeforms using new and unprecedented building blocks, the research may also have more immediate potential applications.

The team believes that their work could also have applications in several practical areas, including the development of new methods for drug delivery or even innovative materials with functional properties.

Mac spyware stole millions of user images

A criminal case brought against a man from Ohio, US has shed more light on a piece of Mac malware, dubbed Fruitfly, that was used to surreptitiously turn on cameras and microphones, take and download screenshots, log keystrokes, and steal tax and medical records, photographs, internet searches, and bank transactions from users.

Source: Ars Technica

Drone swarm attack strikes Russian military bases

Russia's Ministry of Defence claims its forces in Syria were attacked a week ago by a swarm of home-made drones. According to Russia's MoD Russian forces at the Khmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility "successfully warded off a terrorist attack with massive application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)"

Source: Science Alert

Las Vegas strip club employs robot strippers

A Las Vegas strip club has flown in robot strippers from London to 'perform' at the club during CES. Sapphire Las Vegas strip club managing partner Peter Feinstein said that he employed the robots because the demographics of CES have changed and the traditional female strippers aren’t enough to lure a crowd to the club anymore.

Source: Daily Beast

GM to make driverless cars without steering wheels or pedals by 2019

General Motors has announced it plans to mass-produce self-driving cars without traditional controls like steering wheels and pedals by 2019. “It’s a pretty exciting moment in the history of the path to wide scale [autonomous vehicle] deployment and having the first production car with no driver controls,” GM President Dan Ammann told The Verge.

Source: The Verge

Russia-linked hackers "Fancy Bears" target the IOC

Following Russia's ban from the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, the Russia-linked hacking group "Fancy Bears" has published a set of apparently stolen emails, which purportedly belong to officials from the International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Committee, and third-party groups associated with the organisations.

Source: Wired

Scientists discover ice cliffs on Mars

Using images provided by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists have described how steep cliffs, up to 100 meters tall, made of what appears to be nearly pure ice indicate that large deposits of ice may also be located in nearby underground deposits. The discovery has been described as “very exciting” for potential human bases.

Source: Science Mag