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Interdisciplinary Research Theme

Space is inspiring to a wide range of people; from the world watching humanity take its first steps on the Moon in 1969 to the fact that every child has looked up in wonder at the stars. But perhaps fewer of us realise just how essential space is to every aspect of our modern daily life. Every time we use our smartphones to navigate, every time we take a flight, every time we check the weather forecast – we are using space. Satellites orbiting the Earth only 160 kilometres above our heads keep us connected with our friends, families, and colleagues. They support our present and future security and prosperity, enabling us to navigate the oceans, monitor the climate and forecast the weather. 

The Space Race of the 20th century transformed and advanced our technology, our society, and our understanding of our place in the universe. The coming decades will do this again. New technologies and cheaper access to space will let us further explore the Earth and the solar system, deliver new ubiquitous services like space- enabled internet, and make new scientific discoveries in zero-gravity. Space was once only the preserve of superpowers but decreasing costs and increasing commercial use of space will trigger a new wave of advances. 

The space sector is a vital part of the UK’s economy, worth over £16.4 billion per year and employing over 45,000 people in diverse and exciting roles as scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and innovators. Space presents significant opportunities; the global space economy is projected to grow from an estimated £270 billion in 2019 to £490 billion by 2030. Constellations of satellites are being launched to deliver worldwide services. New state and commercial space stations are being planned and built, humans are returning to the Moon, and we hope a person will walk on Mars by 2040. 

With thanks to the National Space Strategy.

Space is, by definition, an interdisciplinary topic. To use space, technology must be developed and placed in orbit. We need to combine multiple fields – both engineering (electrical, mechanical, information technology, communications, power, propulsion, aerospace), and science (physics, chemistry, biology, materials) need to be applied to develop novel technologies. We should not forget that space technology is used for and by humans; our natural environment, human society, biology, economy, law, politics, and the arts all have space applications.

The best technology designs are based on a user need, so connecting downstream users trying to solve human problems to scientists and engineers working on space technology is a unique opportunity to drive innovation. Northumbria has a diverse and excellent portfolio of research with applications to space; in space science, engineering, law, etc.

The Space IDRT brings together these diverse interests with emerging space research areas to stimulate new ideas, enhance excellence and drive innovation in the exploration and use of space for humankind. The IDRT holds events, provides networking, advertises and informs of funding opportunities and has opportunities of its own, e.g. pump priming and PhD students.

Get in touch

Space IDRT aims to bring together researchers who are interested in Space-related research of any kind and supports interdisciplinary space-related activities across the University. Find out more or get involved by emailing Space IDRT Lead, Jonathan Rae (

Theme Lead

Professor Jonathan Rae

Join our IDRT mailing list

To join the Space IDRT mailing list, please email

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