Making satellites on the Clyde
Glasgow-based ÅAC Clyde Space is the global leader in the design, manufacture and operation of CubeSats and NanoSats, miniature satellites - “the size of a whisky box” - used for space research.
These tiny spacecraft have a huge range of data collection applications, from telecommunications to shipping tracking and infrared imaging of the world’s oceans. It has been a front runner in what has been dubbed the “New Space” movement.
According to this database, 875 CubeSats and 958 NanoSats have been launched to date. The market for small satellites is growing annually at about 25% per cent. It’s estimated there will be more than 3,000 new satellites that each weigh less than 50kg in orbit in the next five years. "Projections indicate over 2,000 nanosatellites will require a launch from 2017-23," says its founder Craig Clark in this interview. (He founded the company after studying electronic engineering at Glasgow University and then working at Surrey Satellites.)
So four out of ten of these satellites will be made in Glasgow. Clyde Space, which started in 2005, has been a pivotal player in making the city into the satellite capital of Europe. Its customers include NASA and the European Space Agency, as well as an increasing number of commercial enterprises. Scotland produces more small satellites than any other country in Europe.
Clyde Space has been able to punch well above its weight by getting spacecraft into the stratosphere faster than other companies, notes this article in the Telegraph, with one reason being the deep pool of expertise available at local universities. “Finding talent in Glasgow hasn’t ever really been a problem and it’s getting easier,” says Clark.
One reason for their popularity is their astonishing reliability. In addition to complete satellite platforms, Clyde Space has supplied over 2,000 subsystems for spacecraft ranging from 1 kg to 250 kg in size, including more than 1,000 power systems, which account for over 500 cumulative years in orbit with zero reported failures.
In December 2017, Clyde Space was acquired by the publicly quoted Swedish space technology company ÅAC Microtec. In the announcement of the deal, the competitive advantages of the combined enterprise was said to be based on “a combination of superior technology robustness/reliability, unique know-how in space qualified miniaturised electronics, completeness of product portfolio, accumulated spaceflight heritage, company size/resources, international presence, breadth of customer base, and competitive price levels.”
So, that's a confident position then.