People have shared their stories of how British ESA astronaut Tim Peake’s mission inspired them to explore the opportunities in the UK’s space sector. The blog post follows the unveiling of a new ‘gold standard’ rocket testing facility, powered by an investment from the UK’s space agency.
Today (June 18) marks the fifth anniversary of the landing of Peake’s Soyuz space capsule in the desert of Kazakhstan as it returned from a six-month expedition to the International Space Station.
The UK Space Agency and Tim Peake launched the ‘Inspired By Tim’ campaign to explore the impact of his space mission. More than 400 people shared their stories of how the mission inspired them, including those who took up studying astronautics or stargazing as a hobby; a student told how they started a career as a rocket engineer.
The personal stories and more are available to read online on the UK Space Agency blog. Peake, a British ESA astronaut, said: “It’s humbling to hear how my mission encouraged people to explore a future in STEM. Without the scientists, aviators and explorers who inspired me when I was younger, I wouldn’t be. are where I am now.
“The space industry in the UK is thriving and you don’t have to be an astronaut to play your part. There are opportunities for analysts, engineers, entrepreneurs and environmentalists.
I look forward to seeing where the young people who have followed my journey over five years and to learn about the positive changes they have made in the world”. Hannah Albery, a headteacher at Yarborough Academy, Grimsby, transformed classrooms into space scenes for her nine- and ten-year-old class.
Albery’s decor inspired students to study STEM subjects in their further education, with one student now pursuing his dream of one day becoming an astronaut. Albery said:
“Tim’s mission has been a tremendous experience for our school. We had a project planned for year 5 about moving to the moon; transformed our classrooms into space scenes; virtually met the Virgin Galactic Team and even visited the National Space Center.
“The students who were involved have now left our school. I saw a young man, Ethan, just a few months ago and he now wants to be an astronaut like Tim and is choosing STEM subjects as part of his further education.
Tim impacted an entire generation of people and inspired them about the wonder and importance of STEM learning.”
Peake’s Principia mission also led David Honess to change his career, moving from a software engineer to working at the European Space Agency’s Education Office, where he is still based today.
Peake also inspired many students to study STEM subjects at university, such as Chloe French, a high school student from London who learned during the space mission that you can achieve anything you set out to do with a little hard work and determination.
During the six-month mission, the UK Space Agency worked with Peake on more than 30 outreach projects, including experiments to grow salad from seeds in space; make imaginative movies inspired by spaceflight and practice like an astronaut.
More than two million students took part in the outreach programme, with one in three British schools taking part. Jenny Horrocks from Surrey studied a PhD in geology during Peake’s flight and was mesmerized by the photos he took of the Earth.
Horrocks was randomly selected to talk to Peake on a video call, which she is gifting to her old school, while 10 others who shared their stories with the UK Space Agency received a space-themed goodie bag. 9breaking spoke to Tim Peake in 2015 shortly before its launch date.
In the exclusive interview, Peake joked that he was the “rookie astronaut” aboard the ISS, compared to the two incumbents – NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Korniyenko. In 2021, the 9breaking awarded Peake an Honorary Fellowship.
Today also marks the closing date of the last ESA call for astronauts, where UK citizens can apply to be part of the next space exploration cohort.
In fact, becoming an astronaut is just one possible career path in the British aerospace industry, which already employs approximately 42,000 people, ranging from aerospace engineers, satellite technicians and research scientists to entrepreneurs and lawyers.
Meanwhile, there was a boost to the UK space sector yesterday (June 17) when a new ‘gold standard’ national rocket testing facility was officially unveiled by Science Minister Amanda Solloway.
The new facility offers cheaper and greener rocket testing and allows British companies and academics to test state-of-the-art propulsion engines — such as those intended to move small satellites into space — at a more affordable rate than having to go abroad.
The facility will also make it possible to test new types of more sustainable propellants, such as hydrogen peroxide and liquid oxygen, which are more environmentally friendly in their extraction, storage and combustion.
Located in the Westcott Space Cluster in Aylesbury Vale Enterprise Zone, the new National Space Propulsion Test Facility (NSPTF) is the only facility of its kind in the UK.
The UK Space Agency gave £4 million in funding for the test center, which is one of only three in the world and will create around 60 jobs. Until now, companies could test extremely small engines in the UK, but had to go abroad to test larger engines.
The new facility aims to remove this hurdle and help the UK’s aerospace industry grow. Solloway said: “We are investing in our brightest space scientists, the facilities they work in and the technologies they create.
This groundbreaking facility will support our ambitious space ventures, enabling them to conduct complex spacecraft engine tests, while boosting the local economy through highly skilled jobs to create.
” Rob Selby, Vice President of Nammo Space – the company that will operate the facility’s equipment – said: “Thanks to this significant investment from the UK Government, UK spaceflight can now compete favorably with the very best rocket testing facilities in the world.
The Nammo team has designed, created and manufactured this phenomenal, state-of-the-art hot-fire testing facility that is already driving further growth in UK-based spacecraft propulsion activities.
We look forward to testing engines for customers around the world and to further significant developments that the NSPTF will enable.” The engine tests work by firing the engine under vacuum, where a mechanical pumping system generates a vacuum of up to 1.5 millibars in a test cell containing the engine.
This is an equivalent test altitude of approximately 140,000 ft, ensuring that technology can be considered ready for the space environment.
When fired, the pressure of the engine’s exhaust plume is partially recovered by a 7-meter-long supersonic diffuser. The rocket plume intercooler developed by Reaction Engines will remove the heat generated by the rocket exhaust plume and enable the vacuum pumps to operate and maintain the simulated high-altitude conditions.
This means that the intercooler cools exhaust temperatures from over 2000°C to less than 50°C in a fraction of a second, less than a meter away.
The gases then travel along a vacuum manifold to be recovered to ambient pressure by the pumping system in the vacuum generating plant.
This range of engine testing is expected to enable further innovation for the type of orbit booster and stationary engines that the facility will be able to test. It is the first step in a plan to test larger engine types.