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: We Have Lift Off! - Goonhilly Earth Station To Play A Lead Role In The Next Space Race
[January 11, 2011]

: We Have Lift Off! - Goonhilly Earth Station To Play A Lead Role In The Next Space Race

Jan 11, 2011 (M2 PRESSWIRE via COMTEX) -- The iconic Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station on Cornwall's Lizard peninsula might once again be set to play a "starring" role at the forefront of technology. The former BT Satellite Earth Station is now set to be upgraded and re-developed by a consortium, Goonhilly Earth Station Limited (GES), for use at the forefront of world-leading Radio Astronomy projects and Deep Space Network communications.

There are also plans to redevelop the Visitors Centre into an exciting new "Space" themed outreach centre. The plan has been almost three years in the making and was the brainchild of Ian Jones, Managing Director of the space sector company, Orbit Research Limited and now Chief Executive Officer of GES.

GES has worked closely with BT to develop the opportunity and a deal has been agreed, which includes GES taking a three-year lease on most Goonhilly antennas, including the four largest giant dishes, and an option to purchase the whole site for an undisclosed sum.

BT will continue to occupy parts of the site. It will retain possession of some of the operational buildings, retain use of some of the smaller satellite dishes and will continue to employ about 50 people there engaged in research, testing and other operations.

GES has identified and advanced exciting plans for the site to undertake a programme to upgrade the antennas to enable deep space communication with spacecraft missions and to develop an exciting Space themed outreach centre. In addition, the GES partnership with Oxford University has enabled the scope of the project to include the delivery of ground breaking radio astronomy work focussed on the origins of the Universe.

Ian Jones, Chief Executive of GES, said: "Goonhilly is one of those amazing places that inspire people and has a pioneering heritage in international communications from the time when the first trans-Atlantic satellite TV broadcasts were made in the 1960s. Now we have plans to go one stage further and to use the antennas at Goonhilly to support space science missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. We plan to link up with the e-MERLIN Network operated out of Jodrell Bank creating an enhanced radio telescope that will increase our understanding of the universe and act as a stepping stone to the development of the largest telescope ever to be built: The Square Kilometre Array.

"At a time of the biggest down-turn in the economy for a century, the Space Sector in the UK has continued to grow at over 9% per annum. Even so, it has been a long and difficult path for a small company to negotiate and to gain support for an ambitious project such as this. Today I feel very proud that our dedicated team has won the support of so many key partners, particularly Oxford University, QinetiQ, the UK Space Agency and the International Space Innovation Centre at Harwell, without whom this whole venture would not be possible. Space exploration has always been a joint effort - and as the World population grows we will need to look increasingly to space technology to help us manage, sustain and safeguard our life here on Earth. Investment in Space is an excellent investment in our future.

"As a child I can remember being inspired by the Apollo missions - my work as a satellite communication design engineer brought me here to Goonhilly to design, build and test mobile satellite communication systems. In the future I want Goonhilly to continue to provide inspiration to the next generation of scientists and engineers as we plan a challenging range of outreach and education initiatives for families, researchers and industry leaders. It is our vision that Goonhilly and the UK will continue to be recognised world leaders in Space science.

"Goonhilly can become a vital part of the rapidly-evolving story of the UK's space programme and an important source for skilled jobs in Cornwall. Space science is undoubtedly one of the technology sectors offering great opportunity for expansion in the years ahead." One initial focus for the project will be to upgrade the site's antennas to enable a sustainable and cost effective means of ensuring their longevity and their continued practical but alternative use for Deep Space Communications work and Radio Astronomy projects which will enable both ground breaking science and the development of teaching opportunities for Oxford and other University undergraduates and graduates from the site. In addition, an exciting upgrade to the old visitor centre is planned, to transform it into an outreach centre promoting Space and Space science for visitors, including local residents and schools.

Antenna upgrade funding and funding for the outreach centre upgrades will be subject to support from both public and private sectors.

Mr Jones said: "We are confident that the necessary support will be achieved. There is already a great deal of interest in this project, both nationally and internationally. The space sector is very vibrant and growing rapidly - and Goonhilly could be a vital part of that exciting expansion." Professor Steve Rawlings, Oxford University Professor of Astrophysics and global academic lead for the 1.5 billion Euro Square Kilometre Array Radio Astronomy project, said: "The opportunity to include Goonhilly in a number of leading Radio Astronomy projects and related Research and Development work is truly exciting. Once upgraded, the dishes at Goonhilly can quickly be connected to the e-MERLIN network operated out of Jodrell Bank and revolutionize its ability to study the Universe alongside the giant optical and infrared telescopes run by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the satellite observatories run by ESA and NASA. Goonhilly telescopes can also be connected to global radio astronomy networks that will eventually include the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

" The SKA will attack truly fundamental questions: the origin and fate of galaxies, stars, planets and life; and the nature of the fundamental laws of the Universe, going beyond Einstein into the biggest unsolved problems like dark energy and quantum gravity. Oxford University is also thrilled by the possibilities of having its students and staff down in Cornwall where the new outreach Centre will attract many young new scientists. At Goonhilly, these young people will be rubbing shoulders with top flight engineers and physicists from around the world." Piran Trezise, Operations Director for GES, said: "The effort put in by everyone to bring this complex project to the launch pad has been fantastic. Even greater efforts are needed to realise the full potential of this opportunity moving forward and, as a Cornishman, I am particularly proud to be involved and to have the chance to assist the delivery of such an amazing project at one of Cornwall's most iconic locations.

"An Antenna upgrade programme is needed to enable the world-class space science projects and deep space communication activities we envisage and it is pleasing to think we will be able to deliver these through a sustainable approach by reusing and recycling existing infrastructure. The opportunity for Goonhilly to once again be recognised on the international stage for playing a leading role at the forefront of technology is very exciting." Jon Reynolds, BT South West regional director, said: "The benefits offered by this innovative development are potentially enormous for Cornwall and the UK as a whole. Goonhilly has the opportunity to become a world-class example of space research and education. The BT team has worked very hard to find a long-term solution for Goonhilly, which gives the prospect of an excellent future for the site, the local community and for Cornwall. We are keen to continue working with the consortium to help create a great future for this iconic site." Andrew George, MP for St Ives, said: "This is an exciting project. The effort to protect Goonhilly's satellite dishes from the bulldozers will be more than repaid. The important Goonhilly arm of this global project will generate many new jobs and business opportunities in the area. It will place West Cornwall in an integral position in a project of global significance.

"I was born and brought up here on the Lizard and always believed that it was the centre of the universe. That early faith now seems to be confirmed! "However, there is still much more work to be done to bring this project online. Government support will be crucial. It already has the backing of the private sector, the UK Space Agency and Oxford University working alongside Manchester, Exeter and Leeds Universities." For further information Enquiries about this news release should be made to Jason Mann of the BT Regional Press Office on 01803 607562 or Ian Jones of GES on 07774 720118.

About GES Ltd GES Ltd has been formed by Orbit Research Ltd and Oxford University for the purposes of re-developing the Goonhilly Earth Station site to enable Deep Space communications, Radio Astronomy and space sector related Public outreach. Orbit Research Ltd was established in 1994 and has been developing innovative products for the satellite communication industry, exporting to major international telecom operators and supplying organisations such as BBC, Eutelsat and Telenor. Its engineers have helped to design and develop the standards now widely used for Satellite Internet systems, they have designed complex satellite earth station control and monitoring equipment and they operate an active satellite communication business. Orbit Research Ltd has also been highly active in promoting STEM Education, contributing to national Government and Industry studies, developing local, national and international space education initiatives, sponsoring many STEM events and providing direct teaching support in schools. This work has significantly contributed to the establishment of the Keighley STAR Centre, the Y|E|S Net, Space Connections and the ESA ESERO project. The University of Oxford ( consistently ranks amongst the top ten universities in the world and hosts the fastest-growing radio astronomy group in Europe. The radio astronomy team is an inter-disciplinary collaboration between Astrophysics (http://www-, Engineering Science ( and the Oxford e-Research Centre (

About BT BT is one of the world's leading providers of communications solutions and services operating in more than 170 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to our customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband and internet products and services and converged fixed/mobile products and services. BT consists principally of four lines of business: BT Global Services, Openreach, BT Retail and BT Wholesale.

In the year ended 31 March 2010, BT Group's revenue was GBP20,911 million.

British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York.

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