The Time is Now for Northern Ireland’s Space Sector

Space is not just something other nations do – it is something that we do in Northern Ireland and do very well, that’s according to Robert Hill, Director of the Northern Ireland Space Office, when speaking to the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), David Morris MP, during a visit by him to Northern Ireland last week.

The APPG’s job is to raise awareness in Parliament of the importance and opportunities of space-based capabilities to the UK economy, policy making, society and the space community, as well as highlight and promote the benefits from the UK's investment in space and its leading role within the global space economy.

During his visit, Mr David Morris MP, visited both Newry test facilitator, Resonate Testing and award-winning software company, Skytek in Belfast. Tom Mallon, managing director of Resonate Testing was quick to point out that “there is much potential and opportunity within the Northern Irish Space Industry Cluster, whether it’s in upstream or downstream products or services, however we must not be left behind the other nations.”

“I believe there is an excellent prospect to create a commercially viable incubator and realise a commercially successful space industry within Northern Ireland but what is needed is practical and financial support.”

Robert Hill, who is also the Chair of the Northern Ireland Space Leadership Council and the Northern Ireland Space Special Interest Group (NISSIG), hosted by ADS, said, “It was a pleasure to meet Mr Morris MP and discuss the many exciting opportunities for the sector in Northern Ireland. There are many emerging opportunities to upscale Northern Ireland, and I want to do everything in my power to develop the region as a globally recognised place for the space sector, its innovation and creativity, and with companies like Resonate Testing and Skytek, we are doing just that.

He continued; “It is essential, however, for Northern Ireland to be part of the UK Space Strategy and provide proactive input, rather than reacting to a strategy already in place. Access to space has never been better as launch costs get less expensive, the private sector grows and the proliferation of lower cost satellite constellations and mega constellations.

“The next ten years will see an exponential growth in commercial space activities and Northern Ireland has these capabilities to support this global development. Data Analytics and Cyber will be key drivers for the space sector in the next decade with increasing demand for satellites as a service.”

Mr David Morris MP, APPG Chair, said; “It was wonderful to visit Northern Ireland and chat with both Tom [Mallon] and Rita [Malosti] about the ongoing work of Resonate Testing and Skytek. It was very insightful, and I believe that Northern Ireland given its microscopic nature, would be a great test bed for the sector.

“The UK Government is committed to supporting Northern Ireland, and businesses like Resonate Testing and Skytek show the importance of Northern Ireland to the UK, as well as showcasing the world-class talent and expertise that exists.”

Rita Malosti, Head of Space Activities, Skytek, said, “I was delighted to brief David Morris MP on the activities of Skytek. We’ve been operating for over 20 years and as a software development company, specialising in the space sector, we’ve many key partners. With a highly skilled and innovative team we’ve a proven track record and we are now looking to invest further in R&D for an Earth Observation centre, alongside our many products.”

Invest Northern Ireland also contributed to the visit and gave Mr Morris MP an overview of the space sector in Northern Ireland. This included showcasing the local companies and universities that are involved in global space programmes through innovation on the ground and in orbit; next generation lunar missions and deep space missions; and the aspiration to double Northern Ireland’s space sector by 2030.

Dr Leslie Orr, ADS(NI) added; “Northern Ireland has a growing space sector with great capabilities in both downstream and upstream. I must thank Mr Morris MP for visiting Resonate Testing and Skytek to gain a better understanding of this sector and its challenges. The excellent contribution that both these companies make, along with many others, show how important this sector is to both the UK and Northern Ireland economies.”