working in space

April 2, 2018, by Carla Froggatt

The Final Frontier: Working in Space

By Chris Jones, Senior Careers Adviser – Faculties of Science and Engineering

At a distance of 100km away (straight up), space is nearer to Nottingham than London is. However, despite its proximity and the advancements in space technology, it is still a hugely challenging business to get rockets into space, and only 600 people on the planet have ever been there. But what does the future hold and what are the career opportunities for those interested in the space sector? 

These were the questions asked at our recent Spotlight On: Space event.

Satellites are big business

Professor Anu Ojha, Director of the National Space Academy kicked off the event by giving us a fascinating potted history of space exploration. From the ‘space race’ of the 1960s to the international collaboration of the present day.

He identified three broad areas of activity relating to space. These were:

  • ‘looking out there’ – astronomy
  • ‘getting out there’ – human and robotic exploration
  • ‘looking back here’ – satellite applications

The last of the three was the main focus of the event, as satellite applications is a huge and growing area in the UK. It directly accounts for $13.7bn in income and supports 38,000 jobs. More than this, the data provided by satellites also underpins 20% of the GDP of the UK, so the satellite applications sector is a vital part of our economy.

Nottingham leads the way in satellite technology

Professor Terry Moore from the University’s Nottingham Geospatial Institute gave an overview of the myths and realities of satellite navigation. Essentially he helped us all to understand that little bit more about the global positioning systems that lurk inside our phones and satnavs, and what the capabilities and limitations of these systems are. By the year 2020, there will be more devices using satellite navigation on the planet than there are humans. And this trend is only set to continue.

This was followed up by a presentation from William Roberts from Nottingham Scientific Ltd. They are a small local company specialising in innovative GNSS technologies. Nottingham is a leading area for the development of satellite application technologies and, in addition to the Nottingham Geospatial Institute, also hosts a number of small space related companies. These are based on the Nottingham Innovation Park on Jubilee campus, which has just been given £30,000 from the UK Space Agency to further support entrepreneurs and small businesses in the space sector.

Opportunities to work in space are out there…

If you have an interest in working within the space sector, there are lots of exciting opportunities. Particularly for science, technology and engineering students, but also for students from other backgrounds. You might for example look for an internship through the Space Placements in Industry (SPIN) scheme, or to get involved with the UK Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (UKSEDS) Society, check out their Space Careers website.

For further information about working in space, there’s lots of help, advice and insights on our website.

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