Space tech start-up B2Space is celebrating a major milestone in its development with the successful test launch of its space research balloon from Unst in Shetland.
The launch, which took place at the Shetland Space Centre, marks the first of an exciting series of test launches for the company’s ‘rockoon’ (rocket/balloon) technology. The concept is based on the use of a stratospheric balloon to carry a small rocket up to an altitude of about 35km, which then launches to deliver small satellites into their required orbits. Doing so skips the highest density part of the atmosphere, saving on both weight and cost and allowing for a more efficient and cost effective design.
B2Space successfully test launches its space research balloon from Unst
(Credit: B2Space and Shetland Space Centre)
At the European Space Agency’s Business Incubation Centre United Kingdom (ESA BIC UK), which is managed and co-funded by STFC, the company is developing a dedicated, customisable stratospheric testing platform for on its stratospheric balloons, upon which businesses will be able to remotely test components designed for use in space, in conditions similar to those in orbit.
Such testing is essential for components designed for use inside small satellites, from the durability of batteries in harsh space conditions, to the shielding of components from radioactive rays.
Using balloons to transport rockets into the upper atmosphere before they are launched into space will be significantly cheaper than sending rockets into orbit from the ground, the cost of which can be inhibitive for a small business.
Valentin Canales, who co-founded B2Space with business partner, Victor Montero, said: “Opening up access to space so that businesses can launch small satellites, and carry out near-space testing activities affordably is our mission, and we’re thrilled about our latest success. Joining the ESA BIC UK put B2Space in the perfect position to take our business to the next level and we experienced benefits straight away – from essential IP support to advice on funding. This is a major milestone for our business and a very exciting time for B2Space, and our successful test launch is just the first of many more to come.”
Managed by STFC, the ESA BIC UK enables up to 12 UK start-ups every year to use space and satellite technologies to develop new products and services. Since opening in 2011 it has helped 75 start-up companies, 66 of which have already graduated from the centre and are now rocketing their way to commercial success as vibrant, growing businesses.
Sue O’Hare, Operations Manager at the ESA BIC UK, said: “B2Space is opening up access to space for other businesses in a way that has not been done before. This has far reaching benefits for society, and is exactly the kind of thing that STFC and the ESA BIC UK set out to help early-stage companies achieve. Companies incubated at the ESA BIC UK have a 92% success rate, so I’m thrilled to be able to support such a pioneering company through its growth and success.” B2Space is an outstanding example of how access to the right technologies, skills, business support and funding can help start-ups use space technologies in new ways.”
About the ESA BIC UK
With three business incubation sites at Harwell, Daresbury and Edinburgh, the ESA BIC UK is part of a growing network of successful ESA BICs across Europe.
Companies that join the ESA BIC UK benefit from £41,500 funding, access to IP, technologies and expertise generated by ESA research, as well as to STFC’s world class expertise and technical facilities, with dedicated business support.
Last updated: 22 July 2019