Queen's University is set to play a key role in doubling the UK's share of the global market for space products and services by 2030.
The announcement comes as leading figures from UK and European space agencies gather for Northern Ireland's first Space Summit at Queen's Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT).
Currently, the UK's space industry contributes £9.1bn annually to the economy. The aerospace, defence, security and space sectors contribute over £1bn to the NI Economy.
Those attending the Space Summit at ECIT are aiming to increase this share by outlining future research requirements for antennas and related technologies, and highlighting potential commercial opportunities for both local and other UK-based companies involved in the space industry.
One ECIT research project being highlighted at the event could eventually lead to a huge increase in the number of people able to access the internet around the world, particularly in rural areas and other sparsely populated regions of the planet.
Overseen by Professor Vince Fusco, Director of Research at ECIT's High Frequency Electronics Cluster, it is sponsored by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Royal Academy of Engineering.
Professor Fusco, who has recently been appointed to the UK Satellite Applications Catapult Centre's Applied Research Group (SAARG), said: "At the present time, only 30 per cent of the world's population is able to get online. The aim of our work is to test ways to increase the telecom and antenna capabilities of satellites. One potential consequence of this work is that it could ultimately lead to greatly increased internet access via broadband satellite connections, so the benefits could be very significant."
"ECIT is well known within the European space industry for our expertise in this highly specialist field and we are the main supplier of various types of sophisticated components both to the UK space industry and to the European Space Agency. We now have 30 researchers working at the Institute who have been involved in numerous high-monetary value programmes for UK and European clients in recent years."
Paul Febvre, Project Director of the UK Satellite Applications Catapult, a new technology and innovation centre currently being established at Harwell in Oxfordshire, is among the key speakers at the Summit, he said: "The rapid growth of the space sector continues to be driven by innovation in technology and applications. The strong heritage of satellite-based research witnessed at ECIT places the Institute in a strong position to collaborate with industry and other partners across the UK and Europe.
"ECIT at Queen's provides Northern Ireland with a focal point for the development of novel and innovative satellite applications and technologies, leading to significant potential for commercial exploitation and growth."
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