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OU and partners scoop a quarter of the UK Space Agency’s latest £2 million funding boost

View of Earth and sunrise and Moon in the distance

Three projects involving The Open University’s space scientists will share a close to £500,000 slice of the UK Government’s latest investment in the British space industry.

The UK Space Agency (UKSA) announced the funding during British Science Week (11-20 March). The OU projects are among 13 it is backing to “help pioneer new approaches to energy, communications and resources.”

The UKSA awarded two projects which continue the OU’s ground-breaking work to develop new technologies that could one day enable us to live on the Moon. £218,000 will go to OU researchers and partners from space technology companies Thales Alenia Space, Metalysis, Added Value Solutions and URA Thrusters to develop equipment to extract oxygen from Moon rock.

Meanwhile, a second £174,000 grant will fund research to develop a space-worthy prototype of a state-of-the-art microwave generator called the Microwave Heating Demonstrator (MHD), capable of melting moon soils. This molten soil can then be 3D-printed to form construction components even more solid than concrete.

OU researchers also secured £91,000 in funding to continue their project to develop the next generation of imaging technology for use in future Mars exploration missions.

Executive Dean of the OU’s Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics, which is home to the University’s space research, Professor Nicholas Braithwaite, said: “This latest UKSA funding is a glowing endorsement of the OU’s space research. With it, our researchers and industry partners can continue their pioneering work to push forward the boundaries of space exploration and conceptualise the tantalising prospect of human settlement on other planets.”

Announcing the UKSA funding boost, the UK Government’s Science and Innovation Minister George Freeman, said: “In addition to discovery breakthroughs, these projects will also ensure that people here on Earth benefit from new technology, including micro-reactor technology with the potential to support our Net Zero commitments.”

Full details of the announcement and funded projects are available.

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