Blue Skies Space was started in 2014 and offers a new model to commission and fund astrophysics satellites for a worldwide user base of academic researchers. In the context of the space sector, the cost of accessing space is going down, more companies are launching small satellites, using off the shelf components which make this much quicker and cheaper. Blue Skies Space is looking to capitalize on this satellite growth and help increase academic researchers’ access to data.
The initial activities of the company are aimed at delivering astrophysics satellites, with the first project, Twinkle (www.twinkle-spacemission.co.uk), being currently designed, together with Surrey Satellites Technology, specifically to observe the atmospheres of exoplanets (planets orbiting distant stars), at a total cost of £50M ($~76M). The company aims to become the world-leading provider of scientific data for astrophysics researchers as a commercial service.
Blue Skies Space vision is to regularly deliver satellites tailored to specific astrophysical observations as a global commercial service. Its first project, Twinkle, focuses on exoplanet spectroscopy, a priority science area worldwide with huge demand for observational data. Twinkle is currently undergoing design completion. It is planned for launch by 2019 and will operate for 5 to 10 years.
The scientific study of exoplanet atmospheres answers important questions about how planets are formed, how atmospheres change and whether our solar system is unique. Apart from satisfying human curiosity and contributing to our understanding about which other planets could be habitable, this also has practical implications to help us better understand the physics governing atmospheric change on our own planet.