Established in 2017, Celestia UK is a deep tech SME, developing ground-breaking technologies to solve bandwidth issues for the satellite communications market. It is part of Celestia Technologies Group, a pan-European network of SMEs developing cutting-edge technology products for many sectors including the aerospace, defence, telecommunications and scientific markets.
As hundreds of satellites are regularly launched into orbit creating 'constellations', the challenge of communicating the exponentially growing volume of data to and from earth needs to be addressed. Celestia UK focusses on designing and manufacturing innovative multi-beam electronic scanning ground stations. The disruptive advantage of its technology solutions enables seamless tracking and communications with several satellites simultaneously, both from a base station at a fixed ground location, e.g. data centre, or a moving user terminal, e.g. aeroplane.
Celestia UK was referred to Interface by Scottish Development International (SDI) as it was seeking specialist facilities within Scottish Universities. In translating the requirements, it was clear that the company was keen to establish R&D partnerships for longer term development.
Supported by Interface, Celestia Technologies Group management visited several Scottish universities and initiated discussions with potential academic partners, with Interface-brokered introductions.
Interest in Heriot-Watt University (HWU) and a strong potential for synergy quickly developed as the University hosts the largest antenna engineering group of its kind in Scotland and one of the largest in the UK, led by Prof George Goussetis and with an eight-strong academic faculty, meeting the required niche skill sets for the proposed development activity.
Company - From a start-up to multimillion pound business in four years, Celestia UK has experienced a 125% Compound Annual Growth Rate. This growth has been accelerated by HWU's technical expertise, facilities and collaborative support. Accessing its experts and a surplus of instrumentation is key for tight time-to-market objectives, ensuring they meet customer deadlines.
Since the collaboration started in 2019, the University has consistently supported Celestia UK's specialist eScan design needs. eScan is the company’s flagship electronic scanning antenna, an innovative phased-array solution for high throughput services in the new low earth orbit satellite operators’ market.
The core technological principles behind eScan have huge potential for application in other business opportunities e.g., 5G, remote broadband infrastructure and aircraft, creating further economic benefits from the collaboration as Celestia UK's business grows. The potential international market for high throughput gateway solutions is £10bn, with Celestia UK’s eScan in prime position to capitalise. It has received funding and technical support from the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency, an acknowledgement of the strength of the collaboration.
Ongoing collaboration benefits include:
- Building a 26-strong, multi-disciplinary team of highly skilled and experienced engineers, operations and administrative people to support its growth
- Moving to permanent facilities in Heriot-Watt University Research Park
- Establishing a second, 4,880 ft2 office and laboratory space and an anechoic chamber, the only SME in Scotland with this capability
- Continuous growth in revenue.
Academic - Benefits to date include:
- Teaching - Closer contact with the emerging satellite constellations providers and Celestia UK as a major ground segment supplier gives HWU informative trends in teaching on radio systems that are relevant to industry needs.
- Employability - Providing direct career pathways for wireless electronic engineers, the collaboration has strengthened the University's position as an attractive destination for postgraduate studies in this field.
- Research – In order to respond to the business's technology needs, HWU has internally formed interdisciplinary teams on thermal, mechanical and radio frequency design as well as on signal processing and antenna aspects for low earth orbit positioning, navigation and timing. These teams are now driving proposals for fundamental research in these domains.
- Support to bids – Celestia UK has supported the University in leveraging additional funding and making a £1.2m research proposal application to the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council.
- Facilities – Celestia UK has brought state-of-the-art facilities to the university campus; these are now available to the university for research purposes.
- Experimentation - Breadboards (boards for making experimental models of an electronic circuit) developed by Celestia UK are available to university researchers to complement their theoretical techniques through further experimentation.
- Profile - The University has raised its profile with the European Space Agency and commercial partners via participation in formal meetings hosted by Celestia UK.
Scottish Economy - Beyond immediately benefiting both partners, the collaboration contributes to their shared vision of being the catalyst for the creation of a cluster of expertise on Scotland’s East Coast, contributing towards the Scottish Space Strategy of positioning Scotland as a global leader for commercial space developments.