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Surrey to lead new AI and Robotics Space Hub

The University of Surrey is set to lead the country’s efforts in breakthrough, space-focused artificial intelligence and robotics research, thanks to a new multi-million pound hub. 

Photo credit: Getty Images

The Future AI and Robotics for Space (FAIR-SPACE) Hub will be funded through a £6.9m grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the UK Space Agency (UKSA), along with a further £7.5m from the sector on the Hub's core research programme. It is hoped that the hub will be further boosted by £15m funding from a business development fund. 

The EPSRC and UKSA award was announced as part of the government’s £84m funding of robotics and AI projects on Wednesday 08 November. The University will use this opportunity to go forward with plans to create space robots that perform complex tasks on long missions, with minimal dependency on a human ground crew.

FAIR-SPACE will lead research into state-of-the-art technologies such as robots that repair satellites, assemble large space telescopes, manufacture products in space and remove space debris. The Hub will also look into robots that survey, observe, extract resources, and deploy infrastructure for human arrival and habitations on alien planets. Other projects include the Hub investigating astronauts and robot interoperability aboard the International Space Station and for the future Moon Village mission.

The University of Surrey will be working with Imperial College London and the Universities of Edinburgh, Liverpool, Salford and Warwick on the core research programme of the Hub. There are further 28 project partners from industry, research, commercial and governmental organisations*. The hub will accelerate the prototyping of autonomous systems in a scalable way, where the innovations and methodologies developed can be rapidly spun out for wide adoption in the space sector worldwide.

Professor Yang Gao, Hub Director of FAIR-SPACE, Professor of Space Autonomous Systems and Associate Dean at the University of Surrey, said: “This is an incredible opportunity for the University of Surrey and the whole country to play a pivotal role in how humankind explores space, our moon and beyond. We have a very talented team at Surrey and a proud heritage of producing leading research in space science and technology. We believe, with the support of our partners, FAIR-SPACE will be another chapter in this illustrious history.”

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*Airbus Defence and Space, Thales Alenia Space UK Ltd, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, BAE Systems, NEPTEC UK Ltd, Horizon Space Technology Ltd, China Aerospace S&T Corp., Intel Corporation UK Ltd, KUKA Robotics, R U Robotics, InTouch Health, Value Chain Technology Ltd, Gaitech Technology (HK) Ltd, Intelcomm Ltd, Network Rail, Schlumberger, Italian Institute of Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, International Space University, STFC-Virtual Engineering Centre, STFC-Boulby Underground Laboratory, UK Space Agency, European Space Agency, NASA- Johnson Space Centre,  Satellite Applications Catapult,  UK Atomic Energy Authority, Deepbridge Captial LLP.

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