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METEOR: New Space vs Traditional Space Engineering

Professor Richard Ambrosi looks back on a challenge discussed at the last METEOR workshop

How does the UK space sector respond to and remain competitive in an environment that will ultimately blend and tension the New Space philosophy against a more tried and tested traditional approach? Just one of the challenges facing the UK space sector today. As an example, we have companies (particularly small and start-ups) that wish to change everything, and larger organisations that are risk and change averse.

Should we be embracing the best of what we see in other sectors?:

  • Greater use of digital technologies
  • Virtual reality
  • Automation
  • Standardisation
  • Machine learning
  • Advanced manufacturing
  • Automated testing
  • Vertical integration
  • Continuous product improvement

Will connected factories and supply chains become a route to a more competitive space sector in the UK? Irrespective of whether a traditional or new space philosophy is preferred, the right financial support, in the right place, was seen as the building block that would bridge the gap between a traditional space sector and this new paradigm. This would drive change and competitiveness.

Ultimately the outcome would be a reduction in time to market and for space science missions, a faster route to accessing the space environment for scientific purposes. It is clear that the vision and ambition are there, but at present, the funding is not, the culture is still too resistant to change and risk averse. The UK has some significant strengths and strategic technology advantages in a number of key areas, and maximising value from embracing new approaches and methodologies is a key requirement for future strategies.


The Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology and Earth Observation Research Centre (METEOR) is a collaborative research project bringing industry and academics together to deliver innovation in the space sector. It has been running since mid-2019 and will locate its centre of operations to Space Park Leicester in winter 2021.

The METEOR programme has four interlinking research work streams that partners and academics will work within and across:  

  • Space 4.0 Advanced Manufacturing 
  • Next Generation digital intelligent systems 
  • Integrated Novel Earth Observation Technologies (INEOT) 
  • Education and Skills Development 

The partner group is a collection of businesses and organisations and is fundamental to the success of METEOR. They form an engaged collaborative community, each contributing to the infrastructure and ecosystem and leveraging it for their development projects.  

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