Space enablers of the space industry

Features Posted 17/11/21
Clutch Space Systems’ ground-breaking software is making space more accessible

We hear about the big space expeditions of NASA, Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos in the news all the time. Launching rockets carrying rovers and satellites for communications, navigation, imaging and research is becoming an increasingly common occurrence.

UK start-up Clutch Space, based at Surrey Research Park in Surrey, Guildford, is revolutionising the market by making space more accessible. The company has a mission to reduce the cost and complexity of satellite communications and radically improve the ground segment of the industry. Clutch’s flexible software-based solution, which runs on off-the-shelf hardware, removes the need for expensive, time-consuming single project hardware updates and can be rapidly deployed and repurposed.

Drawing on 30 years of experience in space and technology, CEO and co-founder Martin Philp formed Clutch Space Systems in 2018. “Clutch Space was born out of frustration surrounding the intransigence in the market,” he explains. “Ground stations are hardware-centric. If there’s a lot of hardware, when you need to change something – say a new satellite – you can’t do that readily. It takes a lot of time, effort and money. The latter isn’t something that new entrepreneurial people coming into the space industry have. We wanted to change that. Space is there for all to use and to make the most out of. There’s a lot of new, innovative things you can do when everything is in the software. We call ourselves space enablers of the space industry.”

An innovative firm such as Clutch Space deserves a location that will facilitate its growth. For Martin and the team, Surrey Research Park ticks all the boxes. “For us, when we look at sites and when we look at where we want to set up, there are three key areas – supply, demand and recruitment,” says Martin. Each of these things, he explains, is fulfilled within 400 yards, with the Tech Centre acting as a great environment for collaboration.

Martin goes on to explain that the facilities are very professional and well-organised, and there’s always support and help available. “One of the best things about being located at Surrey Research Park is the fantastic association with the University of Surrey. Although it’s in early development, we’re currently involved in a project with the university that is going to help us fundamentally change how satellites are operated.”

Clutch Space’s business development manager Ricky D’Costa adds: “We got a lot of help from Surrey University’s Student Enterprise – particularly around securing really strong internships. It’s a win-win situation for both the organisation and the people. When students finish their PHDs or degrees, they naturally gravitate towards companies within the Research Park. We’re ready to accept them.”

Clutch Space utilised the extra time the Covid-19 pandemic put forward to form exciting new partnerships and develop technologies. “We’re coming out stronger and we’re coming out ready to go,” says Ricky. “We want to go more towards providing constant communication with satellites at any time of the day, 24/7. That’s our grand vision.”

Next year, the team have got multiple plans on multiple demonstrations – not just with the university, but with commercial and defence customers. “We will be actively looking at this as we see massive potential in the defence market for our sort of technology,” says Ricky. “The US is an opportune market for us, and NASA is a prime contender to position our technology there.”

Tweets from @SEBmagazine