To boldly go…

Richard Harrington

The space age has entered a new dimension with the launch of a multi-million-pound site dedicated to engineering, research and innovation.

More than 250 delegates ranging from local business leaders to top global space scientists visited the Westcott Space Cluster to witness the official opening by Torben Henriksen, Head of the Mechanical Department at the European Space Agency.

They were able to see a static firing of Airborne Engineering’s rocket, the Lunar Hopper, and enjoyed tours of two of Westcott’s newest facilities, the 5G Step-Out Centre and Business Incubation Centre, which are both run by the Satellite Applications Catapult.

The Space Cluster, based at Westcott Venture Park in Aylesbury and part of the Aylesbury Vale Enterprise Zone, is the result of a £30m investment at the site by government and industry and is particularly significant as it highlights how Westcott has come full circle in its importance as a research facility and developer of rocket propulsion.

Companies at Westcott play a key role in providing rocket engines for interplanetary missions such as the JUNO Mission, Rosetta probe and fueling the Galileo Satellites.

The site is already home to NAMMO, European Astrotech, Airborne Engineering to name just a few, while the event celebrated the creation of five new facilities:

> Reaction Engines SABRE Test Facility which is being built to demonstrate and test the revolutionary SABRE engine core. The firm recently announced a £26.5m investment including backing from global aerospace companies Boeing HorizonX Ventures and Rolls-Royce and has also received more than £20m in investment from BAE Systems.

> Westcott Business Incubation Centre, which offers specialised business and technical support for up to 20 early-stage companies dedicated to the areas of rocket propulsion, 5G communications and autonomous systems. It recently signed up its first three businesses, Valerann UK, SteamJet Space Systems and Stratian. The centre is supported by the European Regional Development Fund, Rockspring Hanover Property Unit Trust, Buckinghamshire Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership (BTVLEP) and the Satellite Applications Catapult which also runs and manages the centre.

> Westcott 5G Step-Out Centre, a 5G facility to test and develop new services and products by accessing the latest wireless applications service equipment and satellite data without the need to invest in expensive infrastructure. The site will be key to unlocking the potential of 5G technology across markets ranging from healthcare to entertainment.

> UK Space Agency’s National Space Propulsion Test Facility (NSPTF) – a £4m government investment giving the UK a brand new facility for testing rocket thrusters up to 1.5kN. This site is scheduled to be completed by late 2019.

> Westcott Innovation Centre – providing networking and office facilities to foster innovation and growth. It is anticipated to be in place by 2019.

Dr Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: ‘The launch of the Westcott Space Cluster is an exciting step for the growing space sector in Buckinghamshire and indeed the UK. This is a sector which underpins industries worth more than £250bn to the UK economy.’

Richard Harrington, Chief Executive of Buckinghamshire Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership, highlighting the importance of the Westcott Space Cluster for the economic growth of Buckinghamshire.

October 5, 2018