UK launches space strategy

UK launches space strategy

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

The space strategy aims to make the UK the first country to launch a rocket into orbit from Europe in 2022 with the aim of becoming a leader in commercial small-satellite launches.

“The UK excels in the manufacture of satellites, spacecraft, highly complex payloads, end-to-end satellite service delivery, satellite communications, and high-end navigation systems,” says the strategy. “We have ambitious plans to build new leadership in high growth areas, such as Earth Observation, navigation applications and services, and satellite broadband. And we will work to establish early leadership in potential and emerging markets such as in-orbit servicing, space travel and habitation, and active debris removal.”

The strategy is light on details, but financing will be boosted through private venture capital funds, particularly the Seraphim Space Investment Trust, the first dedicated space fund, supported by the British Business Bank. For example, Seraphim has backed Isotropic Systems for production of its multi-satellite terminal technology.

The largest part of the market is predicted to be broadband services, which reflects the UK government’s rescue of the OneWeb broadband satellite network last year. 

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The UK will continue to work with the European Space Agency and plans to be a key part of NASA’s Artemis programme to send astronauts back to the Moon. It also wants to build on the UK-Australia ‘space bridge’ collaboration signed in February.

The main focus will be on delivering the UK’s first Defence Space Portfolio, investing £5 billion over 10 years in the military’s satellite communications and £1.4 billion in new technologies and capabilities.

The strategy looks to several emerging areas, including in-orbit servicing to extend the economic life of satellites; active debris removal to keep orbits safe; and in-space manufacturing enabled by advances in robotics and 3D printing.

“We are already building capabilities in some of these sectors, where clear technological possibilities and market needs already exist, and we are demonstrating technologies in others. But we can go further. The government will act to put the UK space sector in a position to fully capitalise on the nascent opportunities of the future,” says the report.

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