Booming UK space industry propels demand for cutting edge real estate on Harwell campus

Property enquiries from space organisations have increased by 150 percent as the commercial space sector drives real estate take up at the UK’s leading science and innovation campus, Harwell.

Astroscale, GMV NSL, MDA and Deimos are just a selection of the space organisations that have taken additional space at Harwell this year, as the number of space related organisations across the South-East has grown by a quarter according to a report commissioned by the UK Space Agency.

As Europe’s most concentrated Space Cluster, Harwell is the UK’s gateway to space, home to more than 100 companies, employing over 1,100 people and on track to surpass its ambitious target of 200 organisations collectively employing 5,000 people by 2030.

Accommodating this growth, is Harwell’s five million sq. ft real estate masterplan, which includes construction of labs, advanced manufacturing, and office space.

Astroscale, the market leader in satellite servicing and long-term orbital sustainability, is one of the first organisations to secure space in the recently completed, and award-winning Zeus building. Taking 20,000 sq. ft marks a 900 percent increase in space for the company which has impressive growth plans.

In August, Astroscale confirmed their recently launched ELSA-d mission demonstrated the first successful test capture of a satellite spacecraft using an innovative magnetic capture system.

John Auburn, Astroscale Ltd.’s Managing Director says, “ELSA-d is the world’s first commercial mission to demonstrate the core technology for capturing and de-orbiting defunct satellites in space. We’re working closely with many expert partners on Harwell Campus to rapidly grow the in-orbit servicing sector in the UK, and keen to support the government’s strategy to position the UK as global leaders in space sustainability.”

GMV NSL has taken the entire 6,000 sq. ft of a newly refurbished building on Campus, for the recently expanded organisation, Deimos Space UK has taken additional space on Campus, while MDA has secured 5,000 sq. ft of space in a brand-new building on Campus which is due to reach practical completion imminently.

Stuart Grant, Chief Executive Officer of Harwell Campus said: “Harwell Campus is an innovation powerhouse and strategically important asset that connects the growing space community at Harwell, with industrial collaborators, research-based expertise, investment opportunities and funders.

“It’s vital that we continue to provide specialist, high quality and scalable real estate solutions that support the needs of our current space industry occupiers who are growing at pace and to attract new organisations to Harwell. This will drive further inward investment, promote jobs, economic recovery and growth and support the Government’s agenda to increase the UK’s share of the global space market to 10 percent by 2030.”

By the mid 2020’s over one million sq. ft will be developed across the 700-acre site further strengthening the co-location and unique mix of commercial organisations and renowned national facilities at Harwell including: The European Space Agency, the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) RAL Space facility, Satellite Applications Catapult and UK Space Agency, as well as ESA’s new 5G/6G hub and the £105m National Satellite Test Facility (NSTF) being built by STFC’s RAL Space on behalf of the UK Government and which will be operational from 2022.

The NSTF will be the UK’s first comprehensive set of space test facilities at this scale, and will enable bigger, more technologically advanced satellites to be built and tested in the UK. Part of the new facility includes a bespoke 7m diameter by 12m long thermal vacuum chamber that will simulate the vacuum and thermal conditions in space. Meanwhile ESA’s hub will also allow industry to take advantage of converged satellite and terrestrial communications networks to create innovative applications that benefit society and the environment.

Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “The Harwell Space Cluster is renowned worldwide as a centre of excellence in space, providing opportunities to showcase capabilities from across the UK, and it is great to see it continue to go from strength to strength.

“This is an exciting time for the whole of the UK space sector and we are working with national and international partners to attract further investment, deliver innovative new projects and create high-skilled jobs across all areas of the country.”

Dr Barbara Ghinelli, Director of Clusters and Harwell Campus, Business Development, UKRI-STFC said: “The Harwell Space Cluster’s phenomenal growth over the past decade places it at the leading edge of global space technology, cementing the Campus’ position as the UK’s gateway to the sector. Added to this, Harwell also hosts successful clusters in Health and Energy, and now also a new cluster in Quantum. These create an exciting environment for cross-disciplinary collaboration that further drives innovation, opening up yet more market opportunities for the Space sector”.

Dr Joanna Hart, Harwell’s Space Cluster Manager at UKRI-STFC said: “Harwell’s Space Cluster showcases the impressive capabilities that exist across the UK space sector. By bringing together leading space technology companies with national facilities and expertise to support innovation, Harwell has positioned itself to drive the growth of the Space sector across the UK.”

The government’s (recently launched) National Space Strategy outlines its long-term plans to grow the UK space sector and make Britain a science and technology superpower, including building on manufacturing and technology capacity, attracting investment and working internationally.

The number of space-related organisations in the South East has grown by 25%, from 368 to 460, with 325 of them having their headquarters in the area, up from 269. The number of people in the region employed in the space sector has gone from 9,023 to 10,475 – an increase of 16%.