Planet earth from space

Guests from NASA and the UK Space Agency spoke at an event to launch an ambitious new strategy

27 April 2022

5 min read

An event to launch the University of Portsmouth’s ambitious new ‘Mission Space’ strategy brought together over 100 key players in the space sector. 

The event was chaired by Lord David Willetts who the government announced this week as the new Chair of the UK Space Agency’s Board. 

He said: “The University of Portsmouth has fantastic strengths in space and space science, which I saw directly when I was minister in the Cameron cabinet. Every part of the UK contributes to the space strategy that has just been published by the government and my appointment will enable me to continue to contribute to the space sector, both business and academic.” 

Mission Space aims to unite businesses and organisations across the South of England to drive growth in the sector. 


Mission Space

Universe-Changing Research at the University of Portsmouth

Speakers at the event included Jeffrey Booth, Manager at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), who mentioned the importance of international partnerships to drive the most interesting missions. 

He said: “To have a truly innovative breakthrough and to change the way the game is played, you need to work with the best people in the world, which is why partnership is critical.”

He also talked about the culture at JPL, which is one of innovation. The organisation’s motto is ‘dare mighty things’ and they never say ‘no’ to an idea, they say ‘yes… and?’. 

This can-do culture enabled them to create Ingenuity - a helicopter the size of a microwave oven - which was the first airborne helicopter on another planet. 

He said: “When JPL decided to fly a helicopter on Mars, everybody said that’s a bad idea because there isn’t enough atmosphere or money to fund it. But we had a culture and a desire to change the way we explored the planet. We pushed through those barriers, accepted there were constraints and tried to come up with an innovative approach. We’re already planning the next large space missions that will utilise this as a fundamental way to explore Mars.”

The event was attended by representatives from Airbus, In-Space Missions, Spur Electron and KISPE, all key space businesses in the area. 


L-R: Doug Liddle, CEO at In-Space Missions, Lord David Willetts, chair of UK Space Agency Board, Caroline Harper, Head of Space Science at the UK Space Agency, Adam Amara, Director of the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, and Jeffrey Booth, Manager at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The recent national Size and Health report found the South-East region has the most space-related activity sites compared with anywhere else in the UK. The area is responsible for a quarter of all UK space industry income and employs almost 10,000 people.

Caroline Harper, Head of Space Science at the UK Space Agency, said how much she had enjoyed hearing about the vision and ambition of the region: “This is an exciting time to be in space in the UK. We have the first ever UK national space strategy that brings together strengths in science and technology, defence, regulation and diplomacy. There is such depth and breadth of skill and talent in this country and we should be building on that and growing it.”

Delegates were invited to sign up to the University’s space charter, which details the institution’s commitment and ambitions. Signatories are showing a commitment to regional collaboration. 


We are on the cusp of a revolution in UK space and we want the University of Portsmouth to be the anchor institution that brings people together.

Professor Adam Amara, Director of the Institute for Cosmology and Gravitation

Director of the University’s Institute of Cosmology and GravitationProfessor Adam Amara, said: “We are on the cusp of a revolution in UK space and we want the University of Portsmouth to be the anchor institution that brings people together. The event was a huge success to launch our ambitious strategy for the region. The most important thing now is to continue to work together with local and global partners to drive innovation and growth. 

“I’m excited about potential new academic and industry partnerships, and helping nurture the ideas of the next generation of young people. Things are changing in the UK space industry and I can’t wait to see what we’re going to achieve in the next decade.”

The event was sponsored by the South Coast Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications (SCCoE), hosted by the University and created to help businesses and academics explore and exploit satellite technologies in areas as diverse as healthcare, construction, tourism and agriculture. The centre has recently been awarded funding from the UK Space Agency and Satellite Applications Catapult to continue for another year, enabling regional business investment and sector growth aligned with the national space strategy.