Restrictive regulations and a lack of skills are preventing Britain from entering the space industry at a cost of £40bn to the economy, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).
The IMechE said the UK has skills shortages in both engineering and science and could be missing out on up to 100,000 jobs by its failure to embrace the global space market.
In a report, 'Seeking Resolution: Growing the UK Small Satellite Industry', which focuses on the UK’s emerging small satellite sector, the IMechE also claims the industry is being hampered by outdated and complex launch and operation licence regimes and expensive third-party liability insurance.
The small satellite sector offers the ability to gather large quantities of data about the planet’s physical, chemical and biological systems and has a multitude of applications in a variety of sectors.
The satellites can monitor urban growth, land-use change and provide rapid casualty estimates after natural or human disasters.
“Small satellites are not only transforming sectors such as agriculture, conservation, energy production and disaster relief, but also have the potential to be a huge business opportunity for the UK,” said Dr Helen Meese, the IMechE’s head of engineering in society.
“The UK has the potential to build a £40bn space industry by 2030, supporting an extra 100,000 jobs, but work needs to be done to simplify regulation and boost the number of people entering the space industry or we risk losing business overseas.
“Funding is currently spread too thinly across academic institutions so more needs to be done by the research councils to boost investment in innovative satellite research.
“The Institution is also calling for the UK Space Agency to simplify its licensing regime to enable more SMEs to enter the market and to end expensive third-party liability,” she added.
The IMechE wants the UK Space Agency to better support SME’s by setting up a small satellite advisory team, simplifying the licensing regime and scrapping the third-party liability.
The Satellite Applications Catapult, an organisation set up by the government’s Innovate UK, should also boost the number of people taking placements in the space industry to 1,000 a year over the next five years, the IMechE said.
Tim Peake, who was announced as the first British astronaut for 20 years in 2013, is set to take his maiden voyage to the International Space Station next month.