The University of Leicester in the UK has broken ground on phase one of the £100m Space Park Leicester, a development aimed at creating a new regional cluster to help advance national space research activities.

The university is developing the project in collaboration with partners including Leicester City Council and the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP).

Being developed in phases, the Space Park Leicester is located on the former John Ellis site in Leicester within the Loughborough and Leicester Science and Innovation Enterprise Zone.

Science and Universities Minister Chris Skidmore said: “The UK’s space sector is booming, bringing with it new advanced technologies and high-quality new jobs across the country. The new Leicester Space Park will be another boost for national space research as well as the local economy, building on the city’s rich space heritage.”

Scheduled for opening in 2021, the Space Park Leicester project will allow industry partners and university researchers to work together on key future sectors, such as international communications, resource management, environmental monitoring and disaster relief.

University of Leicester president and vice-chancellor Nishan Canagarajah said: “This extraordinary project will open a wealth of invaluable opportunities in the key space data and technology sector.

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“It is a real step into the future and will secure the University of Leicester’s spot as a world-leading centre for space research and development, building on our rich heritage as leaders in this field. I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to all involved.”

Backed by £8.175m fund from LLEP, the first phase of the project will focus on creating a permanent base for the National Centre for Earth Observation.

LLEP Chair Kevin Harris said: “The end goal at Space Park Leicester is to harness the space industry for the benefit of our region, and for the country as a whole.”

The partners have also secured planning permission for the second project phase, which will focus on research into Artificial Intelligence and robot-assisted satellite production as well as research on solutions for downstream space data challenges.

Additionally, phase three of the project involves the development of Low Cost Access to Space (LoCAS) satellite manufacturing facility for the production of mid-range satellites.

Officials from the University of Leicester among others during the groundbreaking ceremony of Space Park Leicester in UK. (Credit: The University of Leicester)