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9 May, 2007 - 10:19 By Staff Reporter

Space centre created in region

The East of England is to head a new centre that aims to establish in the UK a world-leading space instrumentation design industry capable of providing information crucial to the future of the planet.

The Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (COEI) will provide an internationally-competitive, instrument and instrument technology research and development programme to underpin the design of tools essential to the monitoring of Earth.

The Centre will also act as a focus for UK academia and industry to develop skills and transfer knowledge, enabling scientific and technical collaboration between the two communities.

COEI will be managed by Mick Johnson at the UK’s leading builder of space satellites and Europe’s largest space company, Stevenage-based Astrium. It will be run in collaboration with the University of Leicester, Science and Technology Facilities Council / Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and QinetiQ.

An initial start-up investment of £1.5 million will be made by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the DTI in their capacity as members of the British National Space Centre (BNSC) Partnership. Further “substantial” investment will come from the CEOI’s industrial and academic partners.

Johnson said: “This is good news for the UK. I am looking forward to the task of bringing together the best capabilities in science and industry to deliver new instruments and new technologies.”

The importance of observational instruments is growing fast as concerns about climate change mount, increasing the need for quality tools to monitor these changes and provide a health check on our environments.

Science & Innovation Minister, Malcolm Wicks said: “This new centre will boost the UK’s capability in international programmes and ensure that it remains at the forefront of Earth observation technology well into the future.”

Driven by the UK’s science objectives, the Centre’s first development programmes will focus on key environmental issues relating to climate and air quality.

They will provide the collaborative expertise and training to develop new remote sensing technologies to understand how atmospheric chemistry affects climate; detectors that measure pollutants in the atmosphere; novel space-based instruments to analyse the quantity and flow of carbon dioxide; and to monitor trace gases in the lowest part of the atmosphere.

Dr Arwyn Davies, director of Earth Observation for both NERC and BNSC, said: “The CEOI is an important strand in taking our Earth observation strategy forward and will cement relationships between our scientific and industrial communities in this crucial area.”

Astrium is a world leader in the design and manufacture of satellite systems, payloads, ground infrastructure and space equipment for a wide range of civil and military applications. It is also a prime contractor to ESA for major space exploration programmes.

In 2006, it had a turnover of €3.2 bn and 11,000 employees in France, Germany, the UK, Spain and the Netherlands.

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