State-of-the-art telescope paves way for space tech cluster at Heriot-Wat

State-of-the-art telescope paves way for space tech cluster at Heriot-Wat

Heriot-Watt University has taken its first major step towards creating a ‘space cluster’ at its Edinburgh campus.

Edinburgh City Council recently approved milestone plans for a £2.5 million, state-of-the-art telescope station at the University’s Research Park on the western outskirts of the capital.

The Hub Optical Ground Station (HOGS) aims to demonstrate and test satellite quantum secure communications to counter cyberattacks and is part of a collaborative effort involving the Universities of Bristol, Heriot-Watt, Strathclyde, and York, with space engineering expertise provided by the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s RAL Space Facility.

The optical ground station will further support research across a broad range of areas, including space situational awareness, astronomy, astrophotonics, and optical communications.

Groundwork on the project, part of major investment into a quantum satellite mission funded by the National Quantum Technologies Programme (NQTP) through the Quantum Communications Hub, is expected to begin later this year. 

Its planned arrival marks a strategic shift for the University, as it looks to establish itself as a base to unlock new frontiers in cosmic research and innovation.

Professor Gill Murray, Deputy Principal of Business and Enterprise at Heriot-Watt University is now calling on more businesses from across the space technology sector to consider a presence within the Research Park.

She explains: “Throughout its history, Heriot-Watt has been dedicated to addressing the evolving needs of employers. The burgeoning space industry in Scotland represents the latest frontier for which we are actively seeking to cultivate a pool of highly skilled graduates to propel innovation and research forward. 

“Our Research Park will soon welcome a new multi-million telescope, following in the footsteps of industry leaders such as Celestia UK, renowned for their expertise in antenna systems for satellite tracking and who have already established their presence here. 

“Positioned uniquely to cater to the demands of the space sector, our Research Park extends beyond conventional academic boundaries. The goal is to transcend traditional learning spaces and laboratories, fostering an environment conducive to groundbreaking collaborations.”

Heriot-Watt University’s Research Park is the largest and most prominent of Scotland’s science parks, with around 1,000 staff working across 28 organisations.

Professor Murray continues: “As a university we aim to shape our curriculum to business needs in order to drive inclusive economic growth and prosperity. We recently launched a new degree in Aerospace Engineering, expanding on our student offering with the aim of producing graduates ready to meet the requirements of this emerging sector.

“Any company that works in the space sector and who chooses to set-up here will not only have ease of access to Scotland’s capital and the central belt, but to our raft of talented students, keen to gain industry experience and employment.” 

The University has world-leading expertise in quantum communications and associated technologies. The new HOGS facility will place the University at the forefront of satellite quantum communications research, enabling engagement with future missions from national and international teams. 

Derek Shaw, Scottish Enterprise’s Director of Innovation and Place commented: “The space sector really is one of Scotland’s growth industries of the future, and one that Scottish Enterprise is keen to support as we work towards an ambition for Scotland to become Europe’s leading space nation.

“The industry has been identified as a key new market prospect in the Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation, with the opportunity to take a £4billion share of the global space market, and Heriot-Watt is showing real foresight with these exciting plans.

“As well as this, the creation of places for innovation is a real passion for Scottish Enterprise, and I look forward to watching this cluster grow into a really thriving community of businesses, academics and agencies who will take Scotland’s space sector into the future.”

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