UK government publishes first National Space Strategy



UK government publishes first National Space Strategy

A joint initiative by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Ministry of Defence, it’s intended to outline a “national vision” to grow the UK’s space sector.

For context, it points out that the global space economy is projected to grow from an estimated £270 billion in 2019 to £490 billion by 2030 (BEIS analysis).

Highlighting the importance of space to the wider economy, it cites employment of 45,000 in the space sector in the UK and estimates that space technologies underpin around £360 billion per annum in wider UK economic activity.

Four Pillars

The strategy involves four stated pillars to establish a UK competitive edge in space science and technology:

  • Unlocking growth in the space sector
  • Collaborating internationally
  • Growing the UK as a science and technology superpower
  • Developing resilient space capabilities and services

National Space Strategy actions

Actions it outlines include helping to unlock growth. For example, space businesses gaining access to private finance through space-oriented venture capital funds, such as Seraphim Space Investment Trust, supported by the British Business Bank.

There’s also a commitment to supportive “modern” space regulation and to build new space trading partnerships, such as a UK-Australia initiative for a ‘space bridge’.

The government says it also intends to “collaborate internationally with our partners and allies”, including maintaining the UK’s role in the European Space Agency and working at the UN to “deliver leadership on a safe, sustainable, and secure space environment, in particular to deliver a new resolution on space threats”.

In terms of R&D, it promises to participate “in the most exciting research opportunities”, for example, returning samples from Mars to the Earth for the first time and monitoring the sun for space weather events like solar flares.

There’s also a commitment to upgrade the UK’s space capabilities, that are described as crucial to many civil and defence functions. This will include 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 becoming 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.

You can read the full document (PDF) online.

Earthbound

There is a foreward by the prime minister, Boris Johnson, which includes a lament for Britain’s previous underachievement in this sector:

“And so the home of Bell Burnell, Hawking and Payne-Gaposchkin, a country that has done so much to expand and enhance humanity’s understanding of the cosmos, has remained largely earthbound. When it comes to getting off the ground we contribute to the work of others rather than taking the lead ourselves.”

“This strategy is about changing that. About tapping our vast pools of talent and enthusiasm, putting the UK firmly in the front rank of the global space industry, and harnessing the technology of space to solve problems and improve public services back down on Earth.”