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The thriving space ecosystem in the UK: 8 visionary tech startups to watch in 2023

UK Space startups

Space is becoming increasingly important to a growing number of nations. As a result, it has evolved from mere scientific curiosity to becoming an integral part of modern society.

SpaceX and Virgin Galactic are among the biggest names in space tech, but everyone from Larry Page (Planetary Resources) to Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin) and Paul Allen (Stratolaunch) is involved in the industry now. The private space transportation industry received $17.8B from NASA through 2017, of which $9.3B was for crewmembers and 8.5B was for cargo.

Hence, many countries have invested heavily in their space programmes.

As a result, the UK has recently made significant bets in the space industries, much like its counterparts — the US, Russia, and China.

Already, Scotland’s space industry project is one of 18 schemes across the UK receiving a multimillion-pound levelling-up grant. Recently, the UK Space Agency also announced a £6.5 million investment to support locally-led schemes and cluster development managers. Additionally, some of those who received funding last February are receiving further support after receiving £600,000 this time around.

Previously, Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, stated: “Through space and satellite technology, these projects will support local communities by harnessing the talent found in places like Cornwall and the east Midlands, as well as across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Through this funding, local clusters can connect with valuable networks of innovators and investors, showcasing the UK’s space sector to international investors and levelling up the economy.”

Further, as part of the European Space Agency, the UK is one of the top four contributors, alongside France, Germany, and Italy. 

Without a doubt, the UK is emerging as a hub for space startups as numerous companies in the industry are gaining traction. 

Having said that, we have listed the eight UK-based startups leveraging technological advancements, innovative business models, and government support to make space exploration and utilisation more accessible.

Image credits: Skyrora


HQ: Edinburgh

Founder/s: Volodymyr Levykin

Funding: $46.2M

Skyrora designs, manufactures, and deploys launch vehicles for small satellite manufacturers looking to access space. 

It aims to become the first UK company to conduct a vertical launch to orbit from UK soil, establishing the country as a sovereign launch power.

Image credits: Orbex Space

Orbex Space

HQ: Forres

Founder/s: Chris Larmour

Funding: $127M

Orbex is a private, low-cost orbital launch services company, serving the needs of the small satellite industry. 

Known as Orbex Prime, Orbex has developed as it claims ‘one of the world’s most advanced, high-performance micro-launch vehicles.’ 

From a unique, modern launch site, the company launches customer satellites into polar and sun-synchronous low Earth orbits.

The company has raised a total funding of approximately £96.5 million.

Image credits: Satellite Vu

Satellite VU

HQ: London

Founder/s: Anthony Baker and Tobias Reinicke

Funding: $27M

Satellite Vu was founded to address global challenges through satellite technology. Using miniaturised satellites, the UK company collects temperature data about the natural and built environments day and night. 

Satellite Vu has raised a total of around £20M from grants and venture capital. In the past, Seraphim Space Investment Trust, Lockheed Martin, Molten, and A/O PropTech have invested in the firm.

Image credits: Space Forge

Space Forge

HQ: Bristol

Founder/s: Joshua Western and Andrew Bacon

Funding: $10.2M

Space Forge is an in-space manufacturing company, developing the world’s first returnable and re-launchable satellite platform. It is the world’s first service incorporating both the launch and return of a new small class of vehicle – the ForgeStar. 

These ForgeStar orbital vehicles will be launched into orbit over 300 miles above Earth. 

Once it comes into orbit, ForgeStar vehicles circle the Earth for one to six months. There will be automated robotic systems that will direct the manufacturing and testing of pharmaceuticals, alloys, and electronic components that cannot be made on Earth.

Image credits: Oxford Space Systems

Oxford Space Systems

HQ: Oxford

Founder/s: Mike Lawton, Juan Reveles, Matthew Dreaper, Matthew John

Funding: $12.5M

This one is a developer of deployable space antennas and structures designed to meet the requirements of the new space age. 

The company offers a portfolio of antennas and structures that improve performance, maximise storage efficiency, and minimize mass, enabling space stations to have access to antennas that are lighter, smaller, and cheaper than traditional ones.

Image credits: Open Cosmos

Open Cosmos

HQ: Harwell

Founder/s: Rafel Jorda Siquier

Funding: $7M

Open Cosmos delivers satellite-based solutions designed to tackle Earth’s biggest challenges.

The UK company offers solutions required to bring actionable information from space — ranging from mission development software and payload qualification kits to ready-to-launch small satellite platforms and supporting services.

Since its inception in 2015, Open Cosmos has developed multiple advanced satellites for telecommunications, earth observation, navigation, and science. 

Image credits: SmallSpark Space Systems

SmallSpark Space Systems

HQ: Cardiff

Founder/s: Anton Bouloubasis, Joseph Ward, Roderic van Hoof, Saif Al-Ibadi

Funding: $4.1M

SmallSpark Space System is on a mission to simplify in-space logistics. The UK company is developing novel technologies that reduce the barriers to accessing space. It includes high-performance atmospheric propulsion systems, low-cost, small-factor satellite propulsion, cloud-based design optimisation tools, and more. 

The company aims to provide Suborbital Launch Services in 2023 and Orbital Launch Services in 2025/26

Image credits: Space Intelligence

Space Intelligence

HQ: Edinburgh

Founder/s: Murray Collins and Ed Mitchard

Funding: NA

Space Intelligence is a nature tech company specialising in Digital MRV (Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification) across the tropics to support nature-based solutions to climate change. 

The company does this by leveraging satellite data analytics, artificial intelligence, and forest ecology. 

The company helps governments, NGOs, and developers of forest projects to create an accurate baseline so they can track change over time and verify carbon credits.

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