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Scotland reaches for the stars

Press release   •   Mar 06, 2019 13:02 GMT

Kirroughtree Forest, Dumfries and Galloway

Scotland’s satellite industry could help revolutionise the world’s response to natural disasters and potentially save lives, according to a leading scientific researcher.

Dr Ciara McGrath, from the University of Strathclyde, will make the claim at VisitScotland Business Events’ latest INNOVATETHENATION talk, held at the University of St Andrews tonight (Wednesday, 6 March).

INNOVATESPACE will discuss Scotland’s thriving work within the Space sector and how the country is making a name for itself as a growing and dynamic location in this field.

There are currently 132 organisations engaged in space-related activities in Scotland, including the headquarters of 83 UK space industry firms with a total income of £140 million.

Last year, the UK Space Agency and Highlands and Islands Enterprise announced funding to build the UK’s first spaceport in Sutherland which will launch Scottish-built satellites into space by early 2020.

Dr McGrath, a Research Associate in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, will use INNOVATESPACE to present her research on the use of satellites the size of shoeboxes, called CubeSats, to track natural disasters.

Currently, the only satellites that can provide real-time coverage of natural disasters are larger geo-stationary satellites which sit in a set orbit about 36,000km above the surface and follow the rotation of the Earth.

Dr McGrath said: “Scotland has a rich heritage of innovation and engineering but the growth in the Scottish satellite sector has really taken off in the last ten years.

“At the moment satellites tend to follow a set path in orbit around the Earth as it takes a lot of fuel to move them, but there are new smaller satellites (CubeSats) being built in Glasgow which are easier to move around - and there are more being built here than any other city in Europe.

“It’s like moving a drone rather than a 747. With easier manoeuvrability, they could be used to learn about natural disasters, such as forest fires and hurricanes, by tracking their movements and rapidly relaying data to first responders. In doing so Scotland could help revolutionise the world’s response to natural disasters and potentially save lives.”

INNOVATETHENATION, organised by VisitScotland Business Events, is a series of talks which bring together industry experts to discuss Scotland’s areas of excellence and innovation and to help attract future events to Scotland's cities and regions.

Joining Dr McGrath to speak at INNOVATESPACE will be Dr Anne-Marie Weijmans, School of Physics & Astronomy at the University of St Andrews, and Dr Luke Daly, School of Geographical & Earth Sciences at the University of Glasgow.

Fiona MacKinnon, Associations & Sectors, VisitScotland Business Events said: “Scotland has a hugely successful and thriving space sector, by the year 2030 it is expected that the space industry will grow its value to £4billion. Our speakers for INNOVATESPACE all have different focuses within the sector and we’re looking forward to hearing about the fantastic work each of their institutions are doing to take Scotland into the next stratosphere.”

INNOVATESPACE will take place at the University of St Andrews, Physics and Astronomy Building, North Haugh.

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Notes to Editors

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