A brand new space research centre was opened today in Leicester by two of the UK’s leading pioneers of Space Science.
The Space Research Centre (SRC) opened earlier today (Tuesday, April 5), within Space Park Leicester.
To celebrate its formal opening, two special guests were welcomed; Ken Pounds and Alan Wells, who are key figures within Leicester’s 60+ year history in space research.
Ken Pounds is considered by many as the ‘father of space science’ in Leicester, and Mr Wells is the founding director of the SRC. Both were also heavily involved with the bid for funding the neighbouring National Space Centre.
Speaking exclusively to the Leicester Times, Mr Pounds said that he was excited about the opportunities which will come out of the city’s new Space park and research centre.
“We’ve been doing space research at the university for 60 years. We’ve had the very successful outreach facility at the National Space Centre, which must have inspired hundreds if not thousands of local children to be looking at a career, if not in space, but one in science or engineering”, he said.
“I think the Space Park just completes the whole local facility, in having an ability to build small satellites and get them into orbit”.
Ken Pounds CBE is one of the pioneers of Space Science in the UK, playing a key role in establishing the international status of the Leicester X-ray Astronomy Group since 1960.
He is a Professor of Space Physics at the University of Leicester, with an interest in X-ray Astronomy, Black Holes, Science Funding and Human Spaceflight.
Asked how Leicester came to play such a huge role in the UK’s Space Industry, he pointed to the 1960’s and the expansion of the UK Space Programme.
“It all goes back to the origins when I was a student at USL in London in the late 50’s, and we were looking out for another university to collaborate with in order to expand the kind of research that I was doing for my PHD, which was looking at X-radiation from the sun”, he revealed.
“It turned out that Leicester had the correct vacuum facilities in the physics department which we needed, so the link was made and I think everything’s just evolved since then.
“We were lucky enough to get together a really enthusiastic team of young scientists and engineers, we were able to carry out some exciting projects and I think everything just grew from there”.
Asked about the future of the UK Space Industry, and Leicester’s importance to the field, Mr Pounds pointed to the success of the city’s National Space Centre.
“I think the fact that 60,000 school children visit the NSC every year is just so rewarding”, he said.
“If 1 per cent of those boys and girls were inspired into a career in science or engineering, that’s good for them, and good for the country.”