University of Sussex scientists awarded £1.1m for new NASA space mission

NASA Image of Earth Credit: NASA

University of Sussex researchers have secured a major grant to lead a UK research effort for a NASA space mission.

With £1.1 million funding from the UK Space Agency, the Sussex led team of scientists will be working on developments for a potential probe mission to investigate the formation of planetary systems and the evolution of galaxies.  

They will be leading a coalition of research teams from the University of Cardiff, Imperial College London and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, to develop optics, filters and data pipelines for NASA. 

The funding is part of a £7.4 million investment in UK space research from the UK Space Agency to enable UK scientists and engineers to play a role in major global space science missions in partnership with other space agencies around the world.

NASA image of atmosphere Credit: NASA

The UK institutions that were selected by the UK Space Agency to receive this funding needed to demonstrate scientific excellence in critical areas of space science and exploration technology, and opportunities to work closely with international counterparts. 

Professor Seb Oliver, Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor of Research and Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Sussex, who is leading the UK effort, said, “I am delighted that the UK Space Agency has given us this opportunity to secure a significant UK role in a NASA space mission."

"The UK has an amazing track record in developing new space technology and providing data analysis that allows astronomers to see processes in galaxies, stars and planetary systems that would otherwise be hidden to conventional optical telescopes."

"My UK colleagues and I are very excited to start work with our US partners on developing exceptional space mission concepts.” 

Scientists at the University of Sussex will lead the project. Credit: ITV Meridian

Andrew Griffith MP, Minister for Space at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said, “From exploring water on Mars and the possibility of sustained human activity on the red planet, to how galaxies evolved over time, our more than £7 million investment is pushing the boundaries of space discovery and putting the UK at the heart of some of the most important global space missions."

“With top UK universities such as Sussex leading these groundbreaking endeavours, our country is at the heart of exploring beyond our planet, working with partners in Japan, India, North America and around the world, and growing our economies.” 

The University of Sussex said the NASA research project is the latest addition to a growing specialism in space science at the university.

Sussex astrophysics alumna Rosemary Coogan is also set to become the UK’s third astronaut, following her selection by the European Space Agency as an astronaut trainee in 2022.  

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