Experts have been granted £1 million in UK Space Agency funding to develop a new portable 3D medical X-ray machine based on the study of distant galaxies.

Cancers, which are often missed on traditional 2D X-rays, are sometimes only discovered later when the disease is more advanced and difficult to treat.

The new equipment will give doctors a more comprehensive view of areas where they suspect tumours are growing, aiding quicker and more effective diagnosis.

Miniaturised, portable and connected through satellites, the kit could also allow patients to be scanned in doctors’ surgeries, reducing the need for trips to the hospital for busy X-ray and CT scanners.

“The challenge of working in space focuses some of the UK’s most brilliant minds,” said Science Minister Chris Skidmore.

“These experts can also help transform our lives for the better here on Earth.

“The huge potential of space technology isn’t just about reaching out into the universe: it’s here on earth that its greatest impact can be seen, from 5G to tackling climate change or ensuring we can all benefit through space-inspired healthcare technologies such as these.”

The project will help to address the key challenges identified by the NHS as part of its 70th anniversary of managing long term conditions, including joined-up health and care services, earlier diagnosis of cancer and transforming GP services and other primary care.

A 3D X-ray machine from Oxford-based Adaptix is the first of four projects receiving a share of a £4 million innovation fund drawn from ESA’s Business Applications and Space Solutions programme, to which the UK is the largest subscriber.

“Being incubated at the world-renowned Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire’s Harwell Campus, a major centre for the UK Space industry, has given us access to fantastic facilities and leading minds to support the development of our space-heritage technology,” said Mark Evans, CEO of Adaptix Limited.