The research conducted by members of Space Lab covers both upstream (broadly space technology providers) and downstream (broadly space technology users) sectors. Research activity occurs across the Faculties of Engineering, Natural Sciences and Medicine and Imperial’s Business School and ranges from planetary science to navigation and positioning solutions. Imperial’s research strengths lie in the breadth of our activity and our expertise in combining research in physical sciences with engineering and medicine. Below we describe a series of research themes that showcase the breadth of expertise in space research and engineering at Imperial College. Space Lab seeks to co-ordinate this expertise, in particular through contributing to the development of evidence-based space policy.
Contributing to Evidence-Based Space Policy
Access to and use of Space is of increasing national significance, identified as a key technological, research and strategic priority for the UK. The national interest in space is based in part on strategic civil and military security concerns, as society becomes increasingly dependent on spacebased systems for Positioning/Navigation/Timing, 5G, climate change, space weather, integrated applications such as the Internet of Things and more. And partly through the economic opportunities offered by a rapidly changing world market, with the UK Space Agency's priority to capture 10% of the global market for space by 2030, as set out in the Space Innovation and Growth Strategy. The rise of “new-space” and rapidly evolving technological capabilities drive significant disruption; for example satellite mega-constellation projects such as SpaceX’s Starlink, One-Web, and Amazon’s Kuiper project that propose to bring high-speed internet access anywhere on Earth. Nationally, as the UK has now left the EU, there will be a need to replace those aspects of space policy and law hitherto covered for the UK by the EU, and developing and implementing new space policy.
A strong evidence-based space policy and law is therefore crucial to navigating the fluid and dynamic challenges posed by these developments. Space Lab is working in collaboration with the London Institute of Space Policy and Law (ISPL) to understand this challenge and translate Imperial's technical expertise into the policy domain. Since 2020, Space Lab and ISPL have completed two studies in this area.
Contribution of Evidence-Based Information by Imperial College London informing UK Space Safety Policy
In 2020, Space Lab and ISPL worked together to explore where Imperial, through Space Lab, can further contribute to the formation of evidence-based Space Safety Policy. The work examined:
- the current state of UK Space Safety Policy;
- the capabilities and expertise of Imperial in Space Safety; and
- the potential for Imperial to contribute evidence-based information to the development of UK Space Safety Policy.
A Report, Informing UK Space Safety Policy_ICL-ISPL Final Report_20200910, summarising the work and the findings of the project is now available. The work and its findings have had demonstrated impact by being presented at a briefing event to key Industry and Government stakeholders, also being publicised in articles and blog posts written in conjunction with The Forum.
Satellite Mega-Constellation Safety and Security: Importance of Evidence-Based Information
In 2021, Space Lab and ISPL continued their collaborative work exploring the specific problem of Space Safety and Security as applied to Mega-Constellations. Using Imperial's technical expertise, the work explored:
- The current status of Mega-Constellation development;
- Space Safety and Security challenges stimulated by the rise of Mega-Constellations, in the areas of Terrestrial Environmental Impacts of Space Activities, Space Debris, Planetary Defence, Space Weather, Space Security, and Space Traffic Managment;
- The ability of Imperial College London to contribute to the development of evidence-based Policy and Strategy.
A Report summarising the project and its findings is available from this link: 2021_MegaConstellationReport_SpaceLab-ISPL
Research themes overview
Our researchers are grouped by their seven themes below.
Areas of research
- Planetary Science
- Heliospheric and Space Physics
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Plasma Physics
- Satellite sub-systems
- Satellite deployables
- Mission design, covering launch, space, ground and operation
- Instrument operations
- Spacecraft design
Natural and Space Hazards
- Space Weather
- Space physiology and health
- Risk assessment, mitigation and insurance
- Climate Change
Underpinning computing and data science
- Data analysis and visualisation
- Software systems
Positioning, Navigation, Timing
- GPS and GNSS technology
Earth Observation and Remote Sensing
- Instrument operations
- Exploring processes in the earth system