Stellar Space Careers

ESA astronaut Tim Peake, tests his NASA spacesuit, at NASA's Johnson Space Center, USA. Image courtesy of NASA.

ESA astronaut Tim Peake, tests his NASA spacesuit, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, USA.
Image courtesy of NASA.

The UK space industry will get a publicity boost in the next month, as astronaut British Tim Peake goes into space on a five-month mission at the International Space Station (ISS). Being an astronaut is something many children dream about, although as less than six hundred people have ever gone into space it is a challenge to achieve. Working in the space industry on the other hand is something within the reach of everyone.

The space industry, often referred to as the space economy, includes space related services ranging from the manufacturing of spacecraft, satellites, ground stations and launch vehicles; through space-enabled applications such as broadcasting, navigation equipment and satellite phones; to user value-added applications such as Earth Observation (EO), meteorological services and broadband. The industry is worth £11.8 Bn to the UK economy and it’s growing at rate of just under nine percent per annum. It directly supports around 37,000 jobs, and indirectly another 100,000.

The shining star of the industry – irrespective of how much we promote EO scientists – will always be the astronauts. Tim will be the second British astronaut into space; our first, Helen Sharman, went up 1991. He was selected as a European Space Agency astronaut in 2009 and was chosen for his ISS mission in 2013. The next step is a launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, in Kazakstan, in December.

Although we’ve said becoming an astronaut was difficult, it is not impossible. This week people were encouraged to apply to NASA to become an astronaut. Before you all rush off to send in your application, there are a few requirements:

  • You have to be a US citizen.
  • They are looking for pilots, engineers, scientists and medical doctors.
  • You’ll have to pass a long-duration spaceflight physical test.

If you want to become an astronaut, or indeed work in the space economy, education in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) subjects is crucial. Last week, at the Von Braun Symposium in America, they called for more STEM education and internships to encourage the next generation of the space workforce.

The European Space Education Resource Office in the UK (ERESO-UK) aims to promote the use of space to enhance and support STEM teaching, and they have set up a number of projects surrounding Tim’s mission and they are encouraging school participation. These include the EO Detective Competition to win a photograph from space during Tim’s mission, the Space to Earth challenge encouraging students to run, swim, cycle, climb, dance or exercise the 400 km distance from the Earth to the ISS and there are grants for innovative projects linked to Tim’s mission. The full details of all the projects can be found here.

The space economy is a wide and varied sector, it offers opportunities for anyone who wants to get involved. If you, or someone you know, is considering their first, or a change of, career, then go and whisper space in their ear. You never know, one of them may become an astronaut in the future!

2015 UK Space Conference Lifts Off

Uk Space 2015We’re at the UK Space Conference 2015 in Liverpool, and exhibiting! The opening day of the conference has been interesting, exciting and bookended by astronauts. The conference’s plenary session began with an upbeat assessment of the UK space industry, and the progress being made on the UK Space Growth Strategy of delivering a £40 bn sector by 2030; we’re currently at £11.8 bn. The plenary also had a presentation from Helen Sharman, Britain’s first astronaut; and the day ended with Tim Peake, Britain’s next astronaut, phoning into the conference from his preparations in Baikonur.

The European Space Agency’s new Director General, Prof Johann-Dietrich Woerner, gave a very inspiring presentation that put space at the heart of society, politics, science and technology and highlighted the need for new ambitions, disruptive technologies and a village on the far side of the moon! Other interesting presentations included Aleksandra Mir & Alice Sharp who explored the collaborations between art and space. Stuart Armstrong from the fantastically named ‘Future of Humanity Institute’ explained how we could colonise the universe, using natural resources from the planet Mercury. Stuart Marsh, from the Nottingham Geospatial Institute, described using a greater range of persistent features (rather than just urban and rocky features as previously used) to provide more complete maps of ground movement from InSAR. A thought provoking session on the use of Earth Observation data within Climate Services took place on day two, particularly on the need to start developing information products, rather than simply providing data and images.

The exhibition has also been positive. We’ve had good conversations with new people, reconnected with some old friends and given talks to groups of schoolchildren who attended as part of the conference’s Outreach / Education Programme.

Pixalytics stand at UK Space Conference

Pixalytics stand at UK Space Conference

At our first exhibition earlier this year, we published ten top tips for first time exhibitors; now we’d like to add an eleventh – Make sure you know whether or not you have a stand? We are not kidding! We’d reserved exhibition space within the Small Business Hub, which included a cocktail table, two stools and space for one pull-up banner. The plan looked like we were all on one big stand with tables distributed throughout; however, when we turned up yesterday we had our own stand complete with walls! This was a surprise to us, and all the other Small Business Hub exhibitors. The surprise was followed by creative thinking, a shopping trip and then we Blue Peter’d our stand! You can judge the results in the picture on the right.

The conference was great, and can’t wait until 2017!