An artist's render of the UK Space Agency C-LEO Program. Credits: UK Space Agency

UK Space Agency to Boost Satellite Communications with £160 Million in Funding

UK Space Agency launches C-LEO program, investing £160 million in satellite tech over 4 years to boost UK's space sector competitiveness

The UK Space Agency has unveiled the Connectivity in Low Earth Orbit (C-LEO) programme, earmarked to disburse up to £160 million in grant funding and contract awards over the next four years.

This initiative aims to foster innovation within UK companies and research institutions, propelling the development of cutting-edge satellite communications technology.

An artist's render of the UK Space Agency C-LEO Program. Credits: UK Space Agency
An artist’s render of the UK Space Agency C-LEO Program. Credits: UK Space Agency

The C-LEO program’s inaugural call is set to allocate up to £60 million in funding support over the next quadrennial. Its primary objective is to fortify the UK’s competitive standing in the burgeoning satellite communication arena, particularly in the rapidly expanding high-volume constellation market.

Key goals include expediting the commercialization and industrialization of pivotal technologies, securing a substantial share of forthcoming high-value contracts, nurturing onshore industrial capabilities, and stimulating private sector investment.


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Strategic context

Aligned with the National Space Strategy‘s vision to position the UK as a global space innovation hub, the UK Space Agency plays a pivotal role in realizing this ambition.

By catalyzing investments, delivering impactful missions, and advocating for sustainable space utilization, the agency endeavors to harness space’s potential for the betterment of society and the economy.

The C-LEO programme resonates strongly with three core pillars of the National Space Strategy: fostering growth in the UK space sector, enhancing the nation’s scientific and technological prowess, and fortifying space capabilities and services.

Over the next four years, the C-LEO program will distribute funding through two avenues: direct grants from the UK Space Agency and contracts awarded by the European Space Agency (ESA) under the Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) program.

Successful applicants will be required to provide match funding, with rates varying based on organizational size and funding route.


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The scope of this program

The program will channel funding towards innovative satellite communication technologies across five key areas: onboard processing, active antennas, optical inter-satellite links, networking and routing, and user terminals.

To qualify for C-LEO funding, entities must be UK-based, with commercial companies requiring registration at Companies House.

The location of the UK Space Agency's new headquarters, the Quad Two building at the Harwell Science Campus’ Space Cluster in Oxfordshire. Credits: UK Space Agency
The location of the UK Space Agency’s new headquarters, the Quad Two building at the Harwell Science Campus’ Space Cluster in Oxfordshire. Credits: UK Space Agency

Additionally, successful applicants’ collaboration with non-UK entities is permitted, provided they are self-funded or funded by other ESA delegates.

The program offers varying match funding rates for the national grant route and the ARTES contract route, tailored to the size and nature of the applicant organization.

Assessment criteria

Applications will undergo rigorous evaluation by the UK Space Agency, supported by external reviewers. Criteria encompass disruptive technology potential, catalytic investment impact, innovation, market readiness, project management quality, team competence, and the strength of the business case and route to market.

To gauge the effectiveness of investments, the UK Space Agency is enhancing its monitoring and evaluation framework, aiming to collect annual impact data from funded partners. This data will facilitate a comprehensive assessment of projects’ contributions to the UK economy and society, informing future program design.

Recognizing the evolving threat landscape, grant recipients are required to adhere to stringent national security protocols, encompassing risk identification, mitigation, response, and recovery measures.


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Edoardo Giammarino

Edoardo Giammarino

Co-Founder & CEO. Drummer and Red Cross Volunteer, born in 1997. I like analog photography and videomaking. Firmly music-addicted.

One comment

  1. I think the C-LEO program is a positive development for the UK space industry. It has the potential to create jobs, boost the economy, and solidify the UK’s position as a leader in satellite communications.

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