About SPAN

The Space Academic Network (SPAN) comprises the heads, or equivalent, of the principal space research groups across the UK together with representatives from related organisations.

SPAN provides a voice for space-related research in the UK in the fields of Earth Observation, Space Engineering and Space Science. The group meets approximately three times per annum with representatives of the UK Space Agency, Research Councils and UK Space in attendance. Moreover, it acts proactively to coordinate a balanced response to current imperatives such as government or parliamentary consultations or more general issues.

SPAN is primarily concerned that the national and international infrastructure is ‘fit for purpose’ and that it works in a way that is as effective as possible. Therefore it advises on enabling mechanisms and processes, funding, the policy and practices of UK government, Research Councils, UK Space Agency policy, European Space Agency and the EU. Space research is a global activity and SPAN seeks to ensure the maximum benefit from international collaborations within and beyond Europe.

Space Engineering

The use of technology in space and in support of space assets involves many novel challenges associated with the launch, environment and remoteness. Space Engineering addresses these issues and, like any other branch of engineering, brings forward new and novel technologies that enables our exploitation of space for both commercial and scientific benefit.

Earth Observation

The ability to observe our planet from space has led to a huge growth in the understanding of our planet, its climate and its resources. Earth Observation covers all aspects of studying the Earth from space including the development of instrumentation, its operation and the processing, analysis, publication and application of its data.

Space Science

Our understanding of the universe is enhanced by observing above the atmosphere and in the close proximity of celestial bodies (such as within a magnetosphere, on the surface of planets, near the Sun or in orbit around a comet). Space Science covers diverse subjects including Astronomy and Astrophysics, Planetary Science, Solar Physics and Solar-Terrestrial Physics. Space Science also includes the measurement of fundamental physical constants from space (such as the equivalence principle) and gravitational effects.

Data and Analysis

Data is King! We live in a time of “Big Data”, whether it is Petabytes of information generated from an experiment at CERN, or from the Gaia galactic survey, or from fusing data from multiple sources such as drones, aircraft, satellites and monitoring stations for air quality and environmental monitoring. How we collect, process, analyse and store data is key to making great progress.

Structure of SPAN

Key Stakeholders

14 October 2019

New £1 million grant to study space weather

Open University researchers have received £1 million from the UK Space Agency to contribute to the design of new sensors to study space weather. A team of researchers in the OU’s Centre for Electronic Imaging, led by Dr Matthew Soman, Space...

25 September 2019

£20 million project to tackle space weather

SWIMMR (Space Weather Instrumentation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk) is a £20 million, four-year programme that will look to improve the UK's capabilities for space weather monitoring and prediction. Link to the news on RAL Space's website

25 September 2019

UK scientists set to work with NASA on a new mission to study the Sun

UK space scientists are working alongside NASA to build a four-spacecraft mission aimed at revolutionising our understanding of the Sun’s atmosphere and how it affects the rest of our solar system. Link to the news article on RAL Space's website