As a sector that is traditionally perceived as having a high carbon footprint, companies in Scotland are working to reduce the impact of the space race on CO2 emissions and waste.

From space junk recovery to satellite monitoring of the health of our seas and forests, Scotland is meeting these challenges with a climate perspective.

Glasgow already builds more satellites than any city in Europe, and Scotland’s space community are committed to reducing our space industry’s impact on the planet.

Read on to find out how our pioneering developments are helping to contribute to Scotland’s net-zero ambitions.

Reaching for the stars

Two Scottish companies - Skyrora and Orbex - are already repurposing waste from biodiesel and plastics to produce a ‘green’ rocket fuel.

In early 2022 Skyrora opened a new satellite manufacturing and production facility near Glasgow. The largest plant of its kind in the UK, the facility will build rockets to carry small satellites into orbit.

Clearing the skies

Without intervention, it would take up to 100 years before atmospheric drag would cause old satellites to naturally re-enter the atmosphere and burn up.

Scotland takes its environmental responsibilities seriously and our new Space Sustainability: Roadmap for Scotland includes a commitment to reduce space debris in Earth's orbit. One such project has come from the University of Strathclyde. A team have been working on space sensors to detect and analyse how such junk fragments on re-entry.

Scottish company AstroAgency is already working on an ambitious, £2.2million plan to remove two old satellites from the Earth’s orbit. The UK Space Agency-funded project will see a spacecraft grab and then remove the units from orbit – to clear the path for more modern satellites.

Looking up, looking down

Scottish space technology is also helping to tackle the twin global problems of biodiversity loss and the climate crisis.

Eolas Insight, in Glasgow, is working with the European Space Agency to track elephant migration in Mozambique to improve environmental conservation.

Alongside fellow Glasgow tech start-up Omanos Analytics it will use the satellite data it records to reduce the social and environmental impacts of critical infrastructure projects. The data can be used to ensure that projects do not obstruct migration routes, so elephants can continue to have safe passages  

The project is based on previous work the start-up did with NatureScot, using satellites to track changes in Scotland’s wild red deer population.

This isn’t only good global citizenship, if there is anyone out there, it’s good intergalactic citizenship.

Data-driven solutions

Earlier in 2022, Scottish tech company Earth Blox displayed its revolutionary satellite data analysis software in an online seminar with its partner, Google.

Established in 2019, Earth Blox is the foremost provider of consumer-level satellite intelligence. This data tracks deforestation and aids agriculture. It also monitors climate change, and speeds up natural disaster response times.

Earth observation is a major activity of the space sector. It involves hundreds of satellites recording various types of data about the planet, and streaming it back down to specialised ground stations.

“We are proud to support companies from any sector who are hard at work addressing humanitarian, environmental, or sustainability challenges. Our ambition is to make Earth observation data accessible to all those that work, live and breathe sustainability.”

Genevieve Patenaude, CEO of Earth Blox

Supported by the University of Edinburgh, Earth Blox is powering STRATA. This United Nations' scheme was designed to identify areas where climate, environmental, and security stresses overlap.

We have lift-off!

Find out more about Scotland's thriving space industry and explore the opportunities to locate, operate and grow your space project in Scotland by visiting Scotland's space industry opportunities and end-to-end space capabilities (sdi.co.uk)

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