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.

Adding stem cells to the brains of mice “slowed or reversed” ageing

Albert Einstein College of Medicine scientists “slowed or reversed” ageing in mice by injecting stem cells into their brains.

The study, published online in the journal Nature, saw the scientists implant stem cells into mice’s hypothalamus, which caused molecules called microRNAs (miRNAs) to be released.

The miRNA molecules were then extracted from the hypothalamic stem cells and injected into the cerebrospinal fluid of two groups of mice: middle-aged mice whose hypothalamic stem cells had been destroyed and normal middle-aged mice.

This treatment significantly slowed aging in both groups of animals as measured by tissue analysis and behavioural testing that involved assessing changes in the animals’ muscle endurance, coordination, social behaviour and cognitive ability.

“Our research shows that the number of hypothalamic neural stem cells naturally declines over the life of the animal, and this decline accelerates aging,” said senior author Dongsheng Cai, M.D., Ph.D., professor of molecular pharmacology at Einstein.

“But we also found that the effects of this loss are not irreversible. By replenishing these stem cells or the molecules they produce, it’s possible to slow and even reverse various aspects of aging throughout the body.”

To reach the conclusion that stem cells in the hypothalamus held the key to aging, the scientists first looked at the fate cells in the hypothalamus as healthy mice got older.

The number of hypothalamic stem cells began to diminish when the mice reached about 10 months, which is several months before the usual signs of aging start appearing. “By old age—about two years of age in mice—most of those cells were gone,” said Dr. Cai.

Images courtesy of the Mayo Clinic.

The researchers next wanted to learn whether this progressive loss of stem cells was actually causing aging and was not just associated with it.

To do this, the scientists observed what happened when they selectively disrupted the hypothalamic stem cells in middle-aged mice.

“This disruption greatly accelerated aging compared with control mice, and those animals with disrupted stem cells died earlier than normal,” said Dr. Cai.

Finally, to work out whther adding stem cells to the hypothalamus counteracted ageing, the scientists injected hypothalamic stem cells into the brains of middle-aged mice whose stem cells had been destroyed as well as into the brains of normal old mice.

In both groups of animals, the treatment slowed or reversed various measures of aging.

The scientists are now trying to identify the particular populations of microRNAs that are responsible for the anti-aging effects seen in mice, which is perhaps the first step toward slowing the aging process and successfully treating age-related diseases in humans.

Self-driving delivery cars coming to UK roads by 2018

A driverless vehicle designed to deliver goods to UK homes is set to take to the road next year after the successful conclusion of an equity crowdfunding campaign.

Developed by engineers at The University of Aberystwyth-based startup The Academy of Robotics, the vehicle, Kar-Go, is road-legal, and capable of driving on roads without any specific markings without human intervention.

Kar-Go has successfully raised £321,000 through Crowdcube – 107% of its goal – meaning the company now has the funds to build its first commercially ready vehicles. This amount will also, according to William Sachiti, Academy of Robotics founder and CEO, be matched by “one of the largest tech companies” in the world.

Images courtesy of Academy of Robotics

The Academy of Robotics has already built and tested a prototype version of Kar-Go, and is working with UK car manufacturer Pilgrim to produce the fully street-legal version.

The duo has already gained legal approval from the UK government’s Centre for Autonomous Vehicles, meaning the cars will be able to immediately operate on UK roads once built.

The aim of Kar-Go is to partner with suppliers of everyday consumer goods to significantly reduce the cost of deliveries, and the company’s goal in this area is ambitious: Sachiti believes Kar-Go could reduce delivery costs by as much as 98%.

Whether companies go for the offering remains to be seen, but the company says it is in early stage discussions with several of the largest fast-moving consumer goods companies in Europe, which would likely include the corporations behind some of the most recognisable brands found in UK supermarkets.

Introducing Kar-go Autonomous Delivery from Academy of Robotics on Vimeo.

While some will be sceptical, Sachiti is keen to drive the company to success, and already has an impressive track record in future-focused business development. He previously founded Clever Bins – the solar powered digital advertising bins found in many of the nation’s cities – and digital concierge service MyCityVenue – now part of SecretEscapes.

“As a CEO, it is one of my primary duties to make sure Kar-go remains a fantastic investment, this can only be achieved by our team producing spectacular results. We can’t wait to show the world what we produce,” he said.

“We have a stellar team who are excited to have begun working on what we believe will probably be the best autonomous delivery vehicle in the world. For instance, our multi-award winning lead vehicle designer is part of the World Championship winning Brabham Formula One design team, and also spent years as a Design Engineer at McLaren.”