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Baby space travel cot launches – thanks to satellite technology

22 March 2016

Technology designed to unfurl space satellites is behind a revolutionary new design of travel cot that is about to make travelling with baby a whole lot easier.

Credit: Oxford Space Structures

When aeronautical engineer, Fujia Chen, was babysitting her nephew and struggling with an awkward, bulky travel cot she knew that there had to be an easier way. So she designed a better one, using space technology. Weighing less than 6kilos, the SpaceCot can be folded up or down in three seconds.

The idea won Fujia a placement at Oxford’s SAID Business School, and funding from the UKTI and Innovate UK, after which she embarked on a two year business incubation tenancy at the European Space Agency’s Business Incubation Centre at Harwell (ESA BIC Harwell) in Oxfordshire. Managed and co-funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the ESA BIC Harwell, which is one of a European network of 12 successful ESA BICs, helps small companies to turn their brilliant ideas using space technology into marketable products and services for non-space sectors. Here Fujia developed and refined her prototype SpaceCot and set up her business, Oxford Space Structures.

Inspired by patented technology designed for ESA’s Alphasat, Europe’s largest telecommunications satellite, the SpaceCot’s easy opening technology is based on a very simple folding mechanism that was used to unfold Alphasat’s 40metre solar wings as it reached geostationary orbit. Using the fewest components possible to maximise its strength and stability, the SpaceCot is also made with aerospace-grade aluminium tubing to ensure maximum strength whilst keeping the cot lightweight.

“Joining the ESA BIC Harwell meant that we had an array of science and research infrastructure at our fingertips, which was invaluable to developing the prototype.” said Fujia. “With focus also on the commercialisation of the SpaceCot, being at STFC’s ESA BIC Harwell put us in the perfect position to access the specialist business expertise we needed to gain the exposure and contacts with the right people, and this is important to the success of any new business. My vision is to develop better baby products using space technology for the worldwide market, and this is just the beginning.”

Business partner, Julian Jantke, co-founder and managing director, at Oxford Space Structures said: “The travel cot market is worth £60m in the UK and perhaps ten times this worldwide. With limited innovation in the travel cot market over the last 15 years this is a fantastic opportunity for the SpaceCot. We have already been taking pre-orders and have the support of some leading baby product retailers, so we are very excited to be launching now.”

Michael Norris, Head of Business Incubation at STFC, said: “Oxford Space Structures is solid proof that with the right business support and expertise, pioneering start-up companies can take space technologies into completely different industries, turning brilliant ideas into successful, profitable businesses. I am thrilled to see the SpaceCot gearing up for launch and to already be taking pre-orders is fantastic news. This is exactly what STFC and the ESA BIC Harwell sets out to help small companies achieve.”

The SpaceCot has been launched in the UK at the Harrogate International Nursery Fair, and will be closely followed by launches in China and the USA.

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