Written Evidence Submitted by Kingston University London

(SPA0061)

Description: The UK’s ambition to host a significant and economically sustainable space launch capability will require personnel with appropriate academic and practical skills. However, our emerging and key employers tell us that this skillset is already difficult to recruit, and future growth will further limit the size of the available workforce relative to our ambitions in space.

The authors believe that a distributed research, teaching and skills development hub in respect of space launch would be a positive step. We have consulted with academia and industry to identify many of the partners that would be required to deliver such a hub: providers of training in skills such as propellant handling and clean room etiquette, such as the Space Industry Centre for Excellence (SICE); and providers of test facilities, such as the Space Propulsion Research Institute (SPRI). Their submissions should be read alongside our own.

To complement SICE and SPRI we, the academics, wish to add an integrated rolling doctoral research and teaching programme. This would offer applied projects aligned to the needs of our industrial colleagues, realised though our partner test facilities. We also propose that our universities’ existing rocketry societies will engage in a professionalised sounding rocket competition as a testbed for research ideas, skills development, and certification experience. Graduates could therefore expect to leave our programme with the industrial training, doctoral research experience, and practical skills now required by the LaunchUK programme.

In many cases, the relationship between the employer and the graduate would be many years in the making, which would de-risk recruitment; the allied training and test facilities would benefit from a drumbeat customer over many years; and the universities would benefit from new research students and access to the wider infrastructure being proposed across the country.

Depth of support: We believe that the wider space launch industry considers that a total of 100 highly-skilled and experienced PhD graduates, delivered by a dedicated training hub over the course of the next ten years, could provide the step-change needed in the spaceflight industry over the medium term.

As an appendix to this document, we have set out some principles (the ‘Article of Intent’) that set out support for one vision of that future training hub – notionally the Rocketry Research, Training, and Teaching Hub (R2T2) – and further explain what this organisation could and should provide to best support the activity. Our principles have been affirmed by notable stakeholders: university groups such as SPAN and SUN; governmental bodies such as Catapult; major industrial partners such as Rolls Royce, Airbus, Skyrora, and Northrop Grumman; spaceport operators from Shetland to Cornwall, and many others representing academia and the vital SME sector.

Environment and ethics: This document is not a bid for funding. The authors fully understand that there must be a competitive process, and that a balance must be struck between the Haldane Principle and top-down strategic or sector-specific support. That said, there is at present no avenue by which a proposal such as R2T2 could even be considered for funding: EPSRC does not support wholly-space applications, UKSA does not have the required multi-annual budget, and ARIA is not yet operational.

Therefore, the authors propose that an opportunity be created by which a proposal of this nature might be considered. The R2T2 team, or another group with a similar outlook, could then bid for transparent, peer-reviewed funding in support of the space launch skills agenda.

Indicative costs: As an indication of the scale of our ambition, and simply through analogy with similar schemes, we believe that funding on the order of £12m to £15m would eventually be required. We provide a notional breakdown below, although this would be costed and subject to significant change in any substantive application.

100x PhD positions: £7m to 8m

Use of training and test facilities: £3m to £4m

Competitions, campaigns, and engagement: £2m to £3m

 

Please see the following pages for the Article of Intent, and the signatories offering support to this concept.

Article of Intent

Rocketry Research, Training, and Teaching Hub (R2T2)

 

 

 

The signatories agree the following principles:

1. This document is not a contract or a legal agreement of any kind. Its sole purpose is to capture interest in our shared vision for a Rocketry Research, Training, and Teaching Hub (R2T2).

2. The signatories note the UK’s ambition to become a regular launching state, and believe that these ambitions would be best served by the establishment of an R2T2 entity.

3. R2T2 should have both academic and skills-based elements. An ideal offering would be similar to a Doctoral Training Centre: a taught element, broadly equivalent to an MSc, followed by a three-year industrially-focused doctoral research project. Where possible, this project should be aligned, sponsored, or co-supervised by an industrial partner. The industrial partner may be based or operate overseas but, ideally, would have some link to the UK’s commercial spaceflight programme and launch sites.

4. A programme should be put in place whereby the taught and research elements can lead to professional Engineering Council registration alongside the doctoral training activity.

5. The taught and research elements should be supported by skills-based training, according to the specialisation of the individual. These skills-based training elements should be accredited or CPD certified, where possible, through one or more professional engineering bodies.

6. Students should have an opportunity to participate in practical aspects of rocket engine and vehicle testing and operations, through the academic partners’ rocketry societies.

7. The students should have an opportunity to spend time in industry, through the industrial partners’ placement opportunities.

8. The scale of the UK’s ambitions suggest that the hub should seek to train at least 10 rocket engineers, with a PhD, professional registration, and practical skills, per year, over the next ten years.

9. The academic partners intend to host students for the purposes of completing their higher degrees, and to support knowledge transfer (for example, through a KTP programme), should sufficient funding be secured.

10. The industrial partners aim to offer aligned, sponsored, or co-supervised projects to be agreed with the academic partners, and to support research grant applications lead by the academic partners.

11. The hub should facilitate the development of appropriate space launch legislation/regulation and the sharing of best practise in license submissions for large launches under the existing Air Navigation Order and Space Industry Regulations, including but not limited to Operational Safety Cases and Operations Manuals. 


The signatories are:

Entity

Type

Contact

Accession to Article of Intent

University of Glasgow

Academic

P. Harkness

Co-ordinator

University of Sheffield

Academic

V. Fedun

Co-ordinator

Kingston University

Academic

P. Shaw

Co-ordinator

Catapult

Institution

E. Ross

Email to PH, 25/5/21

SPAN

Institution

J. Endicott

Email to PH, 26/5/21

SUN

Institution

L. Berthoud

Email to PH, 14/6/21

UK Propulsion Working Group

Institution

A. Devereaux

Email to PH, 23/6/21

Shetland Space Centre

Spaceport

Y. Hopkins

Email to PH, 15/6/21

Spaceport Cornwall

Spaceport

R. Hulbert

Phone call with PS, 16/6/21

Machrihanish Community Airbase

Spaceport

M. McMillan

Email to PH, 26/5/21

Skyrora

Launch Provider

D. Harris

Email to PH, 14/6/21

Raptor Aerospace

Launch Provider

R. Adlard

Email to PH, 21/5/21

Airbus Defence and Space Ltd

Prime Industry

P. Bianco

Video call with PS/PH, 28/5/21

Northrop Grumman

Prime Industry

D. Pile

Email to PH, 4/6/21

Rolls Royce

Prime Industry

M. Wills

Email to PH, 10/6/21

SiCE (Space industry Centre for Excellence)

Industry

C. Young

Email to PH, 24/5/21

UK Launch Services Ltd

Industry

A. Baker

Email to PH, 24/5/21

European Astrotech

Industry

C. Smith

Email to PH, 24/5/21

Protolaunch

Industry

M. Escott

Email to PH, 24/5/21

In-Space Missions

Industry

D. Liddle

Email to PH, 25/5/21

B2-Space

Industry

J. Verdasco

Email to PH, 26/5/21

AVS

Industry

A. Garbayo

Email to PH, 9/6/21

Atout Process

Industry

R. Foster-Turner

Email to PH, 11/6/21

Mars Space

Industry

S. Clark

Email to PH, 11/6/21

Airborne Engineering

Industry

J. Macfarlane

Email to PH, 14/6/21

Nano Avionics

Industry

E. Jamieson

Email to PS, 17/6/21

Cranfield University

Academic

A. Baker

Email to PH, 24/5/21

Southampton University

Academic

C. Ryan

Email to PH, 25/5/21

University of Lincoln

Academic

M. Saaj

Email to PH, 26/5/21

University of Strathclyde

Academic

C. Maddock

Email to PH, 26/5/21

Sheffield Hallam University

Academic

S. Battistini

Email to PH, 26/5/21

University of the West of England

Academic

C. Toomer

Email to PH, 4/6/21

City University

Academic

A. Sayma

Video call with PS/PH, 8/6/21

University of Surrey

Academic

A. Fabris

Email to PH/ 21/6/21

 

(June 2021)