Public Release: 

UK space science innovation brings inward investment

Science and Technology Facilities Council

Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire is set to become the European centre of a major international organisation, and with it bring investment into the UK economy, thanks to the innovative, world-leading science of space spin out company Orbital Optics Ltd.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), through its commercialisation company CLIK, and the Rainbow Seed Fund have sold their shares in the spin out company to its majority shareholder MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd (MDA). Orbital Optics is being acquired in return for a share in future revenues, which could be worth up to £3.5M to the selling shareholders.

Orbital Optics Ltd develops and sells state-of-the-art, compact and affordable space cameras that are capable of producing high quality images. Their optical payload products are based on the proven technology developed by the Space Science and Technology Department of STFC's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. The acquisition of the company by Canadian-based MDA, which is well known for the development of the robotic systems that are part of the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle, will bring important investment in satellites, space and terrestrial robotics from overseas into the UK economy.

Tim Bestwick, Chief Executive of STFC's commercialisation company CLIK continued: "The STFC is committed to using its research facilities and scientific expertise to support and develop exciting and innovative companies. It's vital that we look for opportunities where we can transform scientific and technological advances into successful new products and services that will benefit both the economy and wider society.

"I'm delighted that MDA have completed their purchase of our spin-out company. They can provide vital expertise to propel Orbital Optics into the next stage of growth. Their impressive background in commercial space technology makes them the ideal organisation to lead the further commercial exploitation of the innovative space cameras developed at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory."

Orbital Optics Ltd was originally spun out by CLIK in early 2006 with initial funding from the Rainbow Seed Fund and other investors. In March 2007 international space and information solutions company MDA acquired a majority shareholding in Orbital Optics. The organisation's initial investment enabled MDA to add significant optical payload capability to its existing radar and comsat payloads, thus enhancing its turnkey satellite mission offerings. Following its acquisition of the remaining shares, Orbital Optics is now wholly owned by MDA and will be rebranded as MDA Space and Robotics Ltd. MDA will continue to collaborate with STFC's Space and Science Department at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory as it expands and develops its operations.

Mag Iskander, President of MDA's Information Systems Group said: "This is a solid first step in our strategy to address the UK and ESA market needs. From there we plan on building a larger presence based on our expertise, cooperation with STFC's Space Science Department at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and Europe's major primes."

John Ellis, Chief Executive Officer of Orbital Optics Ltd added: "I am absolutely delighted by the purchase of the remaining shares in Orbital Optics Ltd by MDA. It is an important step that creates a new MDA Information Systems company in the UK. It will allow us to develop and broaden our activities to cover a range of products in addition to the high resolution cameras on which Orbital Optics Ltd was established."

Dr Andrew Muir, Investment Director at the Rainbow Seed Fund, continued: "We are delighted by the acquisition of Orbital Optics Ltd by MDA, which promises to be a good home for the company. We were amongst the first investors in Orbital Optics Ltd having always believed in the potential of their cutting edge technology. We are happy to have helped the company over the last three years and we will continue helping early technology companies turn great science into commercial reality."


Notes to editors

MDA Space - Orbital Optics Ltd's optical payload products include the proven and cost-effective 2.5m resolution RALCam1, which has been successfully flown on the UK government funded TopSat mission. In addition, the company offers the 10m resolution RALCam3 instrument for wide area surveillance, and RALCam4, a sub-meter resolution camera. These cameras are compatible with existing small satellite platforms and launchers, and provide customers with high capability optical imaging at an affordable price. The company also provides consultancy on imaging systems and optical payloads issues, offering independent advice to customers procuring imaging systems.

Images available:

Image 1: The front end of the Structural Model of the RALCam 4 camera during testing at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

Karen Coles
Press Officer
STFC Daresbury Laboratory
Daresbury Science & Innovation Campus
T: +44 (0)1925 603232

Wendy Keyzer
Communications Manager
T: 1-604-231-2743

Juliet Clarke / Erwan Gouraud
Financial Dynamics for the Rainbow Seed Fund
T: + 44 (0)20 7831 3113
E: /

About Orbital Optics Ltd

Orbital Optics Limited is a spin-out company set up by CLIK, the Science & Technology Facilities Council's technology exploitation company, based at the Harwell Science & Innovation Campus. It became operational in April 2006. In March 2007 MDA took a majority shareholding in the company.

Orbital Optics Ltd sells a range of high performance cameras for imaging from space from sub 1 metre GSD to 10 metre GSD. The objective is to provide low cost space proven instruments that will achieve the high resolution images that are currently more frequently associated with the large and costly imaging systems of the USA. More information is available on their website at

About STFC's commercialisation company CLIK

Central Laboratory Innovation and Knowledge Transfer Limited ('CLIK') is the wholly-owned technology exploitation company of the Science and Technology Facilities Council. CLIK has the exclusive rights to the commercial exploitation of STFC's intellectual property from its sites. CLIK has a team of professionals who work with technical inventors to identify and manage patents and other intellectual property, set up licenses and new spin-out companies, and sell commercial services from the laboratories.

About MDA

MDA provides advanced information solutions that capture and process vast amounts of data, produce essential information, and improve the decision making and operational performance of business and government organizations worldwide. Focused on markets and customers with strong repeat business potential, MDA delivers a broad spectrum of earth and space based information solutions, ranging from complex operational systems, to tailored information services, to electronic information products.

MDA employs more than 3,200 people in locations across the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. The Company's common shares trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol TSX:MDA.

About The Rainbow Seed Fund

The £10m Rainbow Seed Fund was established in 2001 with funding from the Office of Science and Innovation to commercialise scientific research in a leading group of the UK publicly funded institutions, our partners. The Fund, which is independently managed by Midven Ltd, made its first investment in 2002, and currently has a portfolio of 20 companies with one exit.

The Fund invests at the earliest stages of a technology's development, and helps to turn an idea into a business by actively identifying and supporting experienced management and facilitating additional co-investment. Rainbow's partners spend over £1 billion on research and development every year giving the Fund privileged access to high quality investment propositions at the earliest stage.

About the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus

The UK government's decision to develop two national Science and Innovation Campuses has opened up a new era in science. Located in Daresbury and Harwell, the campuses represent a fundamentally new approach to driving UK competitiveness in global science and innovation, and demonstrate the economic impact of public investment in science.

Harwell Science and Innovation Campus was formed by a joint venture between the Science and Technology Facilities Council, UKAEA and property developers Goodman.

Harwell Science and Innovation Campus is already home to more than 120 organisations including the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Medical Research Council and Health Protection Agency.

It will also be the site of the European Space Agency's UK Centre, building on the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory's long-standing position as a world leader in space science and technology. For further information please visit

About the Science and Technology Facilities Council

The Science and Technology Facilities Council ensures the UK retains its leading place on the world stage by delivering world-class science; accessing and hosting international facilities; developing innovative technologies; and increasing the socio-economic impact of its research through effective knowledge exchange partnerships.

The Council has a broad science portfolio including Astronomy, Particle Physics, Particle Astrophysics, Nuclear Physics, Space Science, Synchrotron Radiation, Neutron Sources and High Power Lasers. In addition the Council manages and operates three internationally renowned laboratories:

  • The Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxfordshire
  • The Daresbury Laboratory, Cheshire
  • The UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Edinburgh

The Council gives researchers access to world-class facilities and funds the UK membership of international bodies such as the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN), the Institute Laue Langevin (ILL), European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), the European organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO) and the European Space Agency (ESA). It also contributes money for the UK telescopes overseas on La Palma, Hawaii, Australia and in Chile, and the MERLIN/VLBI National Facility, which includes the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank Observatory.

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