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From AI to Nuclear: UK launches Strategic Plan for Future Space Exploration
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From AI to Nuclear: UK launches Strategic Plan for Future Space Exploration
by Robert Schreiber
London, UK (SPX) Jul 25, 2023

Following a close consultation with the space sector, the UK Space Agency recently unveiled the Space Exploration Technology Roadmap, a strategic guide that will shape the direction of research, development, and funding allocation for the next ten years. The plan anticipates working closely with key international partners, including NASA, the European Space Agency, and JAXA (Japan's space agency).

The roadmap is designed to address existing gaps and build upon current areas of strength. This will help the UK leverage the opportunities arising from the rapid commercialisation of space exploration and the global space economy, which is projected to be worth $1 trillion by 2040.

CEO of the UK Space Agency, Dr Paul Bate, stated, "Discovery is fundamental to the work of the UK Space Agency, and we are entering a new era of space exploration where governments and commercial operators are working closer than ever before." He emphasized the roadmap's role in providing clear guidance to the industry and researchers and positioning the UK as an ideal partner for future space exploration missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

Key technologies outlined in the roadmap include Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence (AI), which can enhance the capabilities and efficiency of missions. AI has immense potential in space exploration, where spacecraft need to navigate and explore planets and moons without direct, constant control from humans. The technology is also expected to play a significant role in the rising number of commercial satellites in low Earth orbit.

Additionally, the roadmap includes an important focus on Space Nuclear Power, seen as an essential source of dependable and long-lasting energy for future activities like construction, power, heating, and life support. These technologies will become increasingly vital as humans return to the Moon and begin developing infrastructure for Mars missions.

The roadmap also lists several other technologies considered crucial for space exploration, including:

+ Advanced Manufacturing
+ Communications and Mission Operations
+ In Situ Resource Utilisation
+ Life Support and Crew Performance
+ Navigation and Sensing
+ Propulsion
+ Robotics
+ Sample Curation
+ Science Instrumentation

With this roadmap, the UK aims to reinforce its position at the cutting edge of space research and development. The plan supports the objectives of the National Space Strategy, including expanding the space sector and furthering the UK's leading research.

To ensure it stays abreast of new technological and commercial trends, the roadmap will undergo regular reviews. It will also guide further consultation and collaboration with UK organisations active in the space sector, helping to develop a comprehensive analysis of each specific technology area.

The roadmap was released following the first meeting of the reinstated National Space Council on 19th July. The Council discussed government space policy, including the UK's ambitions to become Europe's leading provider of small commercial launch by 2030. It also announced the release of the new National Space Strategy in Action, which showcases the UK space sector's progress and plans for further regional space clusters and a comprehensive review of space regulations to boost effectiveness and innovation.

Significant projects highlighted in the roadmap include the Lunar Pathfinder, the UK-led Rosalind Franklin Rover, Nammo's satellite propulsion system, and the University of Glasgow's pulse elevator technology. These projects underscore the UK's commitment to pioneering space exploration technologies and its readiness to contribute to global space initiatives.

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