Location discussions with University of Essex enter final stage
The scope of the facility, which was showcased at the UK Space Conference in Liverpool, is huge from human spaceflight research programmes to environmental monitoring. The facility will also specialise in training in advanced commercial diving techniques and free diving alongside research into marine environments, human physiology, remotely operated vehicle and aerospace development.
The University and Blue Abyss will be working over the coming year to develop plans to locate the facility at the Colchester Campus.
University of Essex Registrar Bryn Morris said:
“This is a very exciting proposal for us, with many elements that fit very well with our strengths as a University. “Most people will already know about our work with robotic fish to monitor water quality, but our Human Performance Unit is also based at our Colchester Campus and we have many other specialisms which complement this project including psychology, marine conservation and of course data analytics which underpins all of these areas. What also really interests us in this proposal are the business engagement and SME spin-out opportunities that could be generated from this development and we look forward to working alongside Blue Abyss to see how it can be delivered.”
The Blue Abyss project already involves GMW as architects, 3PM as project managers, Pell Frischmann as civil engineers and Gardiner and Theobald as quantity surveyors. Professor Walter Kuehnegger, one of NASA's Apollo Lunar Exploration Principle Investigators, has also joined the Blue Abyss team as a consultant.
John Vickers, Managing Director of Blue Abyss, said: "Being based in Colchester, we were delighted that the University has enthusiastically backed our vision to create this world leading research facility. All the ingredients are here; the location near to Stansted Airport and the North Sea offshore industry via Harwich; a superb campus site and an excellent research base within the University's academic departments.
“We are now intent on developing links with a number of the world's highest profile organisations and companies and see this as a key step towards realising our objectives.”
Tim Peake, the next European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut, has expressed support for the project. He said: “I support Blue Abyss and sees this future facility as something that does not yet exist in Europe and that would compete with, or potentially even surpass, what is available in the United States and Russia. In my view this will be an outstanding ‘European facility’.”
Dr Simon Evetts from the Wyle Corporation, who has been helping develop the research arm of Blue Abyss, said: “A human performance Research and Development centre of the nature envisaged by Blue Abyss could become the research laboratory that is sorely needed for human spaceflight and extreme environment applied research in the UK.”
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