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University of Bradford has plans to launch a mini-satellite into space by 2023


Technician working on microchip

Students enrolling on the University of Bradford’s new Renduchintala Centre for Space AI MSc Satellite Systems Engineering programme - due to launch in September 2022 - could benefit from £10,000-a-year scholarships and work with industry experts, including Airbus.

The centre’s director has also set out ambitious plans to develop and launch a miniature satellite, known as a pocket cube, into space, possibly by 2023.

The palm sized devices, no bigger than a Rubik’s Cube, contain an array of instruments, and because of their size, they are much cheaper to launch than larger satellites.

Prof Fun Hu, the programme leader and inaugural centre director of the recently established Bradford-Renduchintala Centre for Space AI, is a former satellite systems engineer.

She said it was important for Bradford - and the UK - to be at the forefront of space research.

“The Bradford-Renduchintala Centre for Space AI will create a new centre of expertise in West Yorkshire, in an area of research which is going to become increasingly important in the coming years, especially now the UK has left the EU and therefore has lost access to several EU satellite navigation programmes, including Galileo and the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS).

“There is an expectation that the Government will invest heavily in the space sector over the next five to ten years to establish the UK as a global space leader.

“It is important to keep up with technological advances and to have a niche area in which Bradford can have expertise. One of our modules is to do with using AI to design satellites, which again is something that will become the norm in the near future.”

A satellite circling the earth in space

Prof Hu, who is Head of Biomedical and Electronics Engineering Department in the Faculty of Engineering & Informatics, added that she has already been in touch with a launch company with a view to putting a Bradford-designed pocket cube satellite payload into space by 2023.

She added: “It is something we are keen to do, and we have already been in touch with a launch company about the possibility.”

MSc students who sign up to the course will be able to apply for a £10,000 scholarship for the one-year course, which could also include paid work experience with Satellite Applications Catapult - a network of UK technology and innovation companies - and the chance to work on projects overseen by Airbus.

Students will also benefit from the expertise of several industry experts, including Dr Hector Fenech, former Director of Future Satellite Systems in Eutelsat, Professor Marco Lisi, former European Space Agency special advisor in the Navigation Directorate, and Dr Franco Saverio Rubertone, former Director at Thales Alenia Space Italia in Earth Observation Satellite design and delivery, Dr Giovanni Campolo Director of the Competence Centre Platform and Integration in Thales Alenia Space and Dr Mario Profili, Ground Segment Chief Software Architect also in Thales Alenia Space.

As part of its preparations for the start of the course, the University is also advertising for a number of roles, including a Professor of Space Engineering.

An Innovation and Advisory Skills Board for the Space Centre and this new programme had its first meeting earlier this week, with seventeen representatives from 14 organisations.

Thanks to our donor

The Bradford-Renduchintala Centre for Space AI has been made possible thanks to a multi-million pound donation from Bradford alumni Dr Venkata ‘Murthy’ Renduchintala Murthy, who studied at the University from 1983-1991, during which time he gained a BEng degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, a PhD in Satellite Communications and a Masters degree in Business Administration.

Dr Renduchintala is one of the most high-profile members of the University community, having pursued a distinguished career in developing and manufacturing wireless communications, System-on-Chip and Internet of Things technologies – working latterly as the Chief Engineering Officer for Intel Corporation. Currently, Murthy serves as a member of the Board of Directors of Accenture plc and as a member of the Advisory Councils for 2 Engineering Schools within the University of California Academic system. He lives in the US, but his family remain in the UK and they all feel a very strong connection to Yorkshire, and to Bradford in particular.

About the course

The Centre will allow the University to deliver educational programmes in space and satellite technology development, and to play an active role in the creation of cutting-edge technologies. Modules will include AI and distributed computing, communication, and earth observation.

To learn more about the programme and to apply, visit our dedicated webpage.