British astronaut launches Space Park Leicester

Astronaut Major Tim Peake opens Space Park Leicester.

British ESA Astronaut, Major Tim Peake, at the launch of Space Park Leicester
British ESA Astronaut, Major Tim Peake, at the launch of Space Park Leicester

The £100m space research, innovation and teaching cluster has been developed by the University of Leicester with local, national and international partners.


Space Park Leicester is forecast to contribute £750m a year to the UK space sector over the next decade. It's also expected to support more than 2,500 direct and indirect jobs in the East Midlands.


The first British European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut to visit the International Space Station (ISS) declared Space Park Leicester open.


He was in the company of Leicester City Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, University of Leicester Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nishan Canagarajah, plus scientists, researchers, and representatives from the local community.

(L-R) Sir Peter Soulsby, Leicester City Mayor; Professor Nishan Canagarajah, President and Vice-Chancellor at University of Leicester; Professor Sarah Davies, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Head of College of Science and Engineering at the University of Leicester; Major Tim Peake; Professor Richard Ambrosi, Executive Director of Space Park Leicester; George Freeman MP, Science Minister; at the opening of Space Park Leicester.
Sir Peter Soulsby, Prof. Nishan Canagarajah, Prof. Sarah Davies, Major Tim Peake, Prof. Richard Ambrosi, George Freeman MP

The launch event was attended by scientists, researchers, and industry guests.


Major Tim was also joined by 60 Leicester schoolchildren from Belgrave St Peter's Church of England Primary School and Wolsey House Primary School.


They were among 160,000 children across the UK who engaged with activities hosted from Space Park Leicester in celebration of Mars Day.


Speaking at the opening ceremony, passionate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) advocate Tim Peake said:


“Leicester has long been a key location for the UK’s space sector, and it is a real privilege to formally open Space Park Leicester just a short distance away from the National Space Centre.


“Every successful space mission call for experts from a wide range of backgrounds to pull together and collaborate to answer bigger questions: and that’s exactly what somewhere like Space Park Leicester helps to provide.


“I’m also excited to see this project highlighting the exciting careers available within the space sector and helping to train, educate and inspire our future generations.”

Examining a spacesuit, Tim Peake takes part in Mars Day activity with schoolchildren at the opening of Space Park Leicester
Tim Peake takes part in a Mars Day activity with schoolchildren at the opening of Space Park Leicester

Tim, who travelled to the ISS in 2015, was given a tour of the state-of-the-art facilities by Space Park Leicester Executive Director, Professor Richard Ambrosi, and also took part in a series of schools activities.


Developed by the University of Leicester in collaboration with local, national and international partners, the 9,700m² building provides an inspirational base for space researchers and business minds to collaboratively work together from offices, shared laboratories, teaching facilities and co-working spaces.


The project builds on the University of Leicester’s 61-year history of space research and its role in establishing the neighbouring National Space Centre, and places Leicester at the forefront of space technology in the UK.


Professor Richard Ambrosi, Executive Director of Space Park Leicester, said:

“We are delighted that Space Park Leicester, even before today’s formal opening, has already shown itself to be the ideal launchpad for cutting-edge space science research and enterprise.


“By hosting forward-thinking University researchers and high-end technology businesses under one roof, Space Park Leicester enables accelerated collaboration on some of the biggest questions of our time: not least the climate crisis.


“Space, by its very nature, feels very far away from our everyday lives here on Earth, but the work undertaken here has the potential to transform almost every aspect of society, from healthcare to the technology in our mobile phones.”


Space Park Leicester houses laboratories, workshops and calibration facilities along with high tech projects such as the pioneering double-walled insulator for the Mars Sample Return 2026 NASA-ESA Mission.


It also has one of the UK’s largest academic clean rooms for the assembling and testing of space equipment. Other workshops allow researchers to expand work in machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI), while engineers have access to a dedicated drone lab.

Tim Peake tours the Space Park Leicester site
Tim Peake tours the Space Park Leicester site

"We are extremely proud to formally launch Space Park Leicester," said Professor Nishan Canagarajah, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, "and wish to thank Tim Peake for being part of this momentous occasion.


“Our University has a long-established track record of space research over the last six decades and, through the facilities provided here in collaboration with our local, national and international partners, we have well and truly placed Leicester on the map as a key cluster in the UK space sector.


“It is also fitting that we can reflect on our space heritage in this, our Centenary year, as Space Park Leicester gears up to work on technologies for use far into our second Century.”


Leicester City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby added, “The development of this world-class facility has been made possible thanks to an outstanding partnership approach that has seen the University of Leicester working with the city council, the LLEP, the National Space Centre, Midlands Engine and others to transform immense ambition and vision into reality.


“It is already bringing together the best academic and business minds to stimulate innovation and growth, and further paves the way for an exciting future that will reinforce Leicester’s reputation as the UK’s Space City.”


Space Park Leicester is led by the University of Leicester in partnership with Leicester City Council and the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP).


Phase one development at Space Park Leicester is supported by an £8.175m allocation from the Local Growth Fund, part of government funding awarded to the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP) for projects that benefit the local area and economy.

 

Written by Tom Young

Tom is a feature writer for Niche Magazine and the Event Co-Ordinator for Cross Productions. He has a degree in Creative Writing and over a decade of experience working in comedy and theatre as the founder of improv group The Same Faces. He writes about what's on, interesting people, and local events.