A WORLD first in satellite technology is being developed by an award-winning Scottish space company.

The news comes as a fledgling Scottish start-up business unveils its coke-can-sized satellite today, adding weight to the claim — reported last month in The National — that Scotland could become a global leader in the space sector.

Glasgow already sells the largest number of satellites of any European city and the new developments are expected to boost the market even further.

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Recognised as a world-leading innovator and supplier of CubeSats and small satellite systems, Glasgow-based Clyde Space designed and built Scotland’s first satellite.

The 12-year-old company is now working on a new tool that could be used in the battle against climate change and it is predicted that the tiny satellite will create a “new wave” of space applications.

The company has teamed up with tech conglomerate Teledyne e2v and the University of Birmingham to develop the tool. Quantum technology is being used to provide a state-of-the-art solution which is capable of creating ultra-sensitive “cold atoms” in space.

Laboratory experiments have shown these atoms can work as ultra-sensitive sensors which are able to map tiny variations in Earth’s gravity.

It means they could be used to monitor more accurately changes in ocean currents, sea levels and polar ice mass as well as detect underground water resources and natural resource deposits. The 6U CubeSat could also be used for deep space navigation.

The lab experiments will now be repeated in space by the Clyde Space-Teledyne e2v partnership’s Cold Atom Space Payload (Caspa) Mission, the planet’s first free-flying on-orbit demonstration for cold atom-based science missions.

“We will create a new wave of space applications,” said Clyde Space chief executive Craig Clark.

“Pioneering innovative solutions is at the core of everything we do and we are always pushing the boundaries of what is possible with small spacecraft, as are Teledyne e2v with quantum technology.

“We are delighted to provide our technical solution in support of Teledyne e2v’s vision for the commercialisation of quantum technologies.”

Quantum technology developments have made it possible to cool atoms close to absolute zero with the result that they are ultra-sensitive and able to detect tiny variations in the strength of gravity across the earth’s surface.

“Quantum technology is giving us new abilities in a wide range of markets and applications,” said Trevor Cross, from Teledyne e2v.

“Our partnership with Clyde Space is representative of the collaboration required to commercialise the technology and really maximise the benefits of quantum in industry.”

Meanwhile Alba Orbital, a start-up founded by Tom Walkinshaw in 2012 in his bedroom with the intention of building a company offering space burial, has developed its first satellite. After long research that suggested space burial was not a viable business model, Walkinshaw found out on small satellite forums online about a new satellite form factor, the PocketQube.

This is a satellite form factor made up of 5cm cubed units. He started building and developing components for enthusiasts and universities to build these ultra-small satellites but realised that to make the most of his component developments he would need to embark on a satellite platform.

Alba Orbital now has 11 staff and is launching its first satellite, The Unicorn, next year on Space X’s Falcon 9. The Unicorn-1 was built in partnership with the European Space Agency and the first mission will be to test data transmission between low-earth orbit satellites and geostationary satellites.

Alba Orbital’s objective is to allow easy access to space to any entrepreneur or company, and to achieve this is lowering barriers with Unicorn-1 costing only around £200,000.

The Unicorn-1 is the first commercial PocketQube format satellite and will shortly be tested and calibrated for launch.