Celestia support for DARA Radio Astronomy initiative

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The Celestia group has announced its participation as an industrial partner with the Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy (DARA) project which has recently won £6.5m of development funding.

DARA has been awarded a grant from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) for DARA 3, a bilateral radio astronomy initiative between the UK and South Africa to deliver training, research capability and infrastructure in eight African partner countries over the next three years.

Kicking off in March 2024, DARA 3 aims to provide a training programme for about 60 trainees a year plus an annual meeting in South Africa where industrial partners like Celestia can showcase pathways into the space sector and use the expertise gained during more than 25 years in the ground station ecosystem to support developing space sector hubs in the partner countries.

Celestia will work alongside Melvin Hoare, Professor of Astrophysics in Leeds’ School of Physics and Astronomy and founder of the DARA project, prestigious UK and South Africa academic institutions and the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory. Celestia also aims to provide support and business insight from a commercial context to add value to the programme.

With the forthcoming Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project being based on the African continent to provide the world’s biggest radio telescope to enable astronomers to study the sky much deeper than ever before, the need for experienced and knowledgeable teams with the commercial and academic skillset to meet the future needs of the project is paramount.

In committing Celestia’s support and advice to the project, as well as mentoring to help entrepreneurial individuals considering using their acquired skills to start a business, Celestia Group CEO Steve Jones said, “The Celestia Group is delighted to build on years of working alongside the DARA project team in this exciting and important initiative. As a commercial developer of space communication systems, Celestia recognises the need to inspire and train a new and diverse generation of young people to engage with the skills necessary to push future technology boundaries further.”

“It is great to welcome Celestia onboard for this phase of the DARA project,” said Melvin Hoare, Professor of Astrophysics in Leeds’ School of Physics and Astronomy. “CEO Steve Jones has been associated with the project for many years and having the full breadth of Celestia’s expertise on-hand will inspire the DARA trainees to consider careers in the burgeoning space sector.”