• Laurence Russell

New UK space research projects to be supported by SPRINT’s Mini Innovation Vouchers scheme

Five innovative UK space research projects have been awarded funding from the SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) programme’s Mini Innovation Vouchers scheme.


The funding will enable HEIs and SMEs to work collaboratively on a wide range of research projects. These cover advancements in thruster technology, the development of next-generation autonomous drones for agriculture, creating fully sustainable composites, as well as developing a new space data standard for aviation and a new a datalogging system in a parachute drop test vehicle.


SPRINT’s Mini Innovation Vouchers scheme has been enabled by grants from the UK Space Agency and Research England. It aims to support collaborations with Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and extend its reach to all UK HEIs. This will promote further technology development and accelerate the route-to-commercialisation of existing concepts.


Rain Irshad, Head of the national SPRINT programme said: “We are delighted that SPRINT can play a key role in strengthening research that will deliver real-world impacts to benefit the UK and the world at large. The funding provided by the new Mini Innovation Vouchers scheme, supported by the UK Space Agency and Research England, has increased the opportunities for UK space-related businesses to work with academic experts and create high value partnerships. From this foundation, we will see networks of researchers devising solutions to address global problems.”


Jacob Nowak, Local Growth Manager at the UK Space Agency, said: “We are opening up the space sector and helping companies grow with support networks, funding and advice available across the country.


“The Mini Innovation Vouchers scheme is supporting exciting collaborations between UK SMEs and Higher Education Institutions to catalyse investment and demonstrate the benefits of collaborative knowledge exchange across the UK space ecosystem.”


The five successful research projects funded by SPRINT include:

OhmSpace Ltd with the University of Southampton - Project: Development of the first commercial high-temperature resistojet (HTR)

OhmSpace grew out of the University of Southampton’s astronautics research group and the firm is now developing the first commercial HTR which uses water as a propellant. This technology will see lower integration costs and quicker operation than competing hall effect thruster technology. The system is adaptable and can use alternative propellants such as xenon, thus enabling the all-electric spacecraft concept by removing the need of a secondary hydrazine propulsion system in large platforms. This project is pioneering a detailed mission analysis on HTR applied to satellite constellation deployment, including orbit raising and phasing, to demonstrate the direct benefit of this technology over current propulsion systems.

ALTAR with the University of Southampton - Project: Development of next generation autonomous drones for agriculture

The University of Southampton and ALTAR are developing the next generation of autonomous drones for agriculture. These will be able to navigate autonomously even in remote and isolated areas with complex landscapes, such as the steep sides of mountains in Colombia where coffee grows.


Adjacency Group with the University of Leicester - Project: Development of next generation of fully sustainable (thermoplastic) fibre reinforced composites

The current generation, high performance (fibre reinforced) composite materials offer lightweight and high mechanical performance, which makes them potentially ideal for a broad range of space applications. However, their lack of sustainability (non-recyclability) is a major issue.

Adjacency Group is developing the next generation of fully sustainable (thermoplastic) fibre reinforced composites by applying a novel sensing technology to ensure that sustainability is delivered not only as a final product, but at all intermediaries, materials and by-products throughout the manufacturing process.

Nebuli with the University of Leicester - Project: A data lake blueprint for space data integration and access

Nebuli’s Datastack enables teams and organisations to turn their segregated datasets into actionable results with easy access to Nebuli’s Augmented Intelligence algorithms, combined with multiple public-cloud AI/ML/automation tools, without repetitive software development life cycles.

In this project, the Datastack will work with satellite datasets to achieve the same ease of accessibility to segregated public and private satellite datasets with specialist cloud-based AI/ML targeting the aviation sector. The objective is to establish a new space data standard for aviation to uncover hidden trends and develop new opportunities through their trapped datasets.

Discover Space UK Ltd with University of Glasgow - 10kN Rocket Test Rig

In accordance with DSUK’s vision of providing unique space access services, this project will expand on existing infrastructure at the Machrihanish Airbase through the development of a 10kN static rocket engine test rig. The test rig will offer a unique rocket propulsion test capability which will draw in academic researchers, student groups and start-up companies to the spaceport cluster.