The project that has become the Spacelink Initiative was engineered by a particularly well-endowed school which had consistently achieved an above average science take-up at A-level, which they attributed to their use of a space education programme in their science teaching over more than ten years. The governors of the school considered it was their duty to make their experience more widely available to schools in general.
The initial work programme set out to achieve the following objectives:-
The Foundation planned to establish the world’s first education payload on a suitable host satellite, subsequently enhancing the service by developing, in conjunction with international partners, a dedicated satellite. This approach would ensure that the Learning Services would be continually enhanced and made yet more cost-effective through collaboration with teachers and partners in other countries.
The Foundation would specify the design criteria for the Learning Service to ensure that space could be used effectively in, and was affordable in the first place by, all UK schools. This would be achievable by taking advantage of the latest developments in satellite and communication technologies, plus the international adoption of the internet as a low-cost way of delivering real time mass communications.
Spacelink’s services would also draw on and complement the UK government’s school computer and National Grid for Learning initiatives, which enabled all UK schools to be fully PC-equipped and with teachers trained in the necessary skills.
Regrettably, although schools demonstrated considerable interest in receiving satellite signals as described above, obtaining the funds for a specialised satellite proved to be impossible, despite encouragement from the British National Space Centre (BNSC) and the then Department of Education. In practice no government department was prepared to put up the necessary funds. Applications were made to aerospace companies and also to many charities, without success, so that by 2004 the Trustees decided that providing a dedicated satellite could no longer be contemplated and other ways of using space in schools should be sought. This has resulted in the learning resources described earlier in Section 3.