A PIONEERING Glasgow company has won a £1 million order to build four satellites for a UK Government-backed programme aimed at developing fast, regular and more affordable access to space.

Fast-growing Clyde Space has been commissioned by the Satellite Applications Catapult and Innovate UK to build four CubeSats for the programme. The company’s satellites will eventually be launched from the International Space Station, enabling in-orbit demonstration of technical and business propositions with a high projected return on investment.

Clyde Space founder and chief executive Craig Clark highlighted his belief that sectors including agriculture and energy, as well as town planning operations, could benefit from the programme.

CubeSats are tiny, fully-functional satellites with a typical mass of four kilogrammes, and dimensions of around 100 millimetres by 100mm by 340mm. They usually piggy-back on other launches.

Mr Clark, whose company designed and manufactured Scotland’s first satellite, said: “The Satellite Applications Catapult in-Orbit Demonstration (IOD) programme is an exciting opportunity for the UK space sector and one which Clyde Space is delighted to support.

“Our CubeSats will deliver highly-capable, reliable platforms which will enable the demonstration of new and advanced space applications as part of the IoD project.”

He added: “These applications and subsequent data generation could benefit a number of industries, from agriculture and energy to the government for town planning.”

Mr Clark was one of the speakers yesterday at an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development event in Paris entitled ‘Innovation and Low-cost Access to Space’, co-organised with the UK Space Agency. His topic was “the off-the-shelf CubeSats revolution”.

A spokesman for Clyde Space said the company was still in discussions with the Satellite Applications Catapult about exactly what projects the four CubeSats would undertake, but indicated the focus would be on testing and experimentation.

Stuart Martin, chief executive of the Satellite Applications Catapult, said: “The growing importance of space technologies is leading to ever more impact on our lives on earth.

“This IOD pilot programme therefore offers a great opportunity for the whole UK space industry, and marks another major milestone on its continued journey and ambition to become a global player in the sector.”

Clyde Space noted that the rapidly-increasing capabilities of CubeSat-related technologies, as well as their commercial availability and low relative cost, opened up many possibilities for carrying out detailed space science studies.

The company, which was founded in 2005, said it was now building around six flight-ready CubeSats each month for customers. It customers are located mainly in Europe and the US.

Clyde Space recently formed a subsidiary in the US to take advantage of opportunities in this fast-growing market. It highlighted an appetite from its customers in the US for the company to open an operation there, and also flagged potential to win work from the US government.

It projected in January that turnover in its financial year ending last month would be $8 million (£5.6m), which it noted would be a five-fold increase over three years.

In little more than a year, Clyde Space’s workforce has more than doubled to 80. It is expected to increase to 100 this year, with its latest recruitment expected to bolster spacecraft development, manufacturing, business development and back-office operations.

Mr Clark said demand for mass-produced spacecraft and systems was driving the company’s rapid growth, declaring that Clyde Space was a global leader in the design and manufacture of CubeSats.

Clyde Space recently took on additional floor space at its headquarters at Skypark in Glasgow to enable it to gear up its operations to meet growing demand.

UKube-1, Scotland’s first satellite, was designed and built by Clyde Space in Glasgow. It was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in July 2014. It has completed its primary mission for the UK Space Agency.

Clyde Space is backed by private equity specialist Coralinn LLP, the investment vehicle of Scottish entrepreneur Hugh Stewart, and by Nevis Capital. Nevis is the investment vehicle of John and James Pirrie.