University of Glasgow reaches for the stars with launch of Space Glasgow Research Cluster

Published: 13 February 2012

The University of Glasgow unveiled an ambitious space technology research programme at an event attended by the Minister of State for Universities and Science, the Rt Hon David Willetts MP.

The University of Glasgow unveiled an ambitious space technology research programme today (Monday 13 February) at an event attended by the Minister of State for Universities and Science, the Rt Hon David Willetts MP.

The new Space Glasgow Research Cluster will focus on expanding the University’s existing expertise in space-related science and engineering. The cluster’s steering group, comprised of University researchers already working in the field, will build a comprehensive plan to encourage scientists from a multitude of disciplines to work together to place Glasgow at the forefront of space research and development.

The Minister heard presentations from some of the University’s leading researchers, including Dr Gianmarco Radice on his work on solar-power-generating satellites and asteroid early warning and deflection systems; Prof Martin Lee on his research into the presence of water and evolution of microbial life in our solar system; and Dr Zhenhong Li on his development of radar technologies to allow early detection of natural threats such as landslides, earthquakes and volcanoes. Dr Nicolas Labrosse also presented on his work on forecasting solar flares and Prof Lee Cronin discussed his work to develop 3D-printed chemical nanofactories for use in space.

Mr Willetts said: "My visit to the University of Glasgow today further proved that both the UK's science base and industry are leading the way in space research and technology. I look forward to hearing more about how the university will exploit this research to drive growth and innovation."

Currently, the University receives around £14m in annual funding to support space-related research, and has already built solid links with organisations including NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). The super-sensitive measurement ‘heart’ of the NASA/ESA LISA Pathfinder II probe, due to launch next year as the precursor to a huge proposed gravitational wave detector project, was developed by a team of University of Glasgow physicists led by Dr Henry Ward, who also presented at the event on his work. 

Dr Patrick Harkness, of the University of Glasgow’s School of Engineering, spoke to the Minister about his work in building ultrasonic drill tools to allow unmanned probes to dig more effectively to gather valuable data from other planets, as well as his research into methods to ensure old spacecraft are burned up in the atmosphere instead of becoming potentially dangerous space debris.

Dr Harkness said: “We were honoured to welcome the Minister of State for Universities and Science to the launch of the Space Glasgow Research Cluster.

“The University of Glasgow is already home to numerous cutting-edge research projects in the space sector, many of which have only been made possible by interdisciplinary working between different schools within the University.

“Our aim is that the research cluster will continue to encourage these unique collaborations and new ways of thinking which can help overcome the challenges of working in uncharted territory.

“Ultimately, we hope this initiative will help to make the city synonymous with space in the way it used to be with shipbuilding.”

Prof Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, said: “As a world-leading research university, we are ideally placed to foster the kind of cross-disciplinary working environment which inspires novel thinking. The formation of the Space Glasgow Research Cluster is an exciting step towards generating innovative technology which will place the city as a world-leader in space research and development.”



For more information contact Ross Barker in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 8593 or email

First published: 13 February 2012