Submission from ABSL Space Products
This input is from ABSL Space Products, a division
of ABSL Power Solution Ltd, formally AEA Technology Plc. We are
located just south of Oxford on the Culham Science Centre.
To have an overall space industry there is a
strong lead required on technology development to enable it to
maintain a strong down stream services provider and dominate in
the fields of space science and Earth observations.
ABSL supply products to the space market world
consisting of lithium ion batteries, calibration sources and electronics
for scientific instruments, lidar receiver equipment and imaging
lidars. At present the major part of the business is the battery
product, which is based on the use of commercial cells. We have
been awarded in excess of 50 contracts worldwide since initiating
the product development in 1997, supported by the BNSC National
Programme. We have supplied all the calibration sources to European
Space Agency (ESA) programmes since 1995. The lidar products are
in development solely from contracts from ESA and expect flight
contracts to be awarded during 2007. The product uses a technology,
capacitance stabilised etalons, that is recognised as a sole source
It is clear that the level of investment provided
through the ESA budget continues to be under severe pressure.
More importantly though, the lack of a BNSC National Programme
during the last few years, that in the past supported the risky
early development activities needed to compete for the ESA programmes
has reduced UK companies' competitiveness.
Our battery product development utilised both
National Programme and ESA funding that allowed our innovative
concept to be adopted for the vast majority of ESA spacecraft
since 1998 and many contracts worldwide. The National Programme
contribution of £600k has resulted in excess of £15
million of orders (this is an update to the 2002 input).
FROM UK SPACE-BASED
The BNSC Space Technology Advisory Board (STAB)
identifies the key technologies where the UK has significant expertise
and is of strategic importance to the UK's space policy. This
approach ensures that the UK has a focused approach to development
of space technology that leads to commercial benefits to the UK
industry and subsequent wealth generation by the down stream sector.
However it is becoming increasingly difficult to be competitive
with other European companies, that have national funding, in
the ESA technology development programmes without some support
from a National Programme. Obviously this is not the case for
products that are developed and have the all-important flight
heritage. In the medium- to long-term this will have a detrimental
effect on the level of commercial benefit that our space-based
technologies can make to the UK economy.
From an industry perspective there appears to
be a lack of ability by a variety of Government departments as
end users to make a consolidated case to support both the service
required from the space asset but also how the required funding
will be derived. Examples of this recently have been the Galileo
and GMES programmes.
6. SUPPORT FOR
UK SKILL BASE
This is considered a key activity by ABSL and
in addition to the training we provide to our staff we provide
undergraduate courses with topics for final year projects. Over
30% of our staff are graduates and we spend considerable time
providing on the job training in addition to attendance at specific
space related courses. Not only do we benefit from this but it
also services other areas of industry:
Trained people often go out and start
small space companies.
Provide a trained resource to other
Provide a trained resource to other
local industries such as medical companies in Oxford Instruments
and Oxford Magnetic Technologies.
It has been clearly demonstrated that school
children find space a very attractive focus to enter further education
in the sciences, engineering and mathematics. The interest becomes
particularly heightened when the UK is directly involved in a
7. COMPANY GROWTH
ABSL has shown significant growth in the last
three years increasing our number of staff from 25 to 38 with
the proportionate increase in turnover. This has been possible
as a result of the BNSC National Programme that assisted in the
development and provision of an early flight opportunity. ABSL
now invest internally to maintain the world class position we
have obtained as a supplier of lithium ion batteries.
Investment in the technology chain for front
end space asset is essential for both the operators and service
providers to flourish and provide the wealth creation, that is
one of the Governments objective. This investment will also maintain
our scientists at the forefront of the world science community.
This benefit come directly from the ESA programmes but a National
Programme is necessary to meet the economic, wealth generation,
excellence in science and the take up by young people into the
key further education subjects.