OneWeb satellite artist impression

National Space Strategy outlines long-term hope for UK space sector

Image credit: OneWeb

The UK government has published its National Space Strategy, which lays out its long-term ambitions for the country to boost private investment in the sector and become a “world-class space nation”.

The UK’s space sector is worth over £16bn. The UK currently wields a six per cent share of the global space market and aims to expand this to 10 per cent by 2030 by identifying and developing high-growth markets and increasing exports.

The Space Strategy [PDF] sets out the government’s long-term ambition for the UK to become a leader in space, as the global space economy is projected to grow from £270bn in 2019 to £490bn by 2030. It aims to encourage innovation by British space businesses by unlocking private finance while positioning the UK at the frontier of space research.

The four pillars of the strategy are: unlocking growth in the UK space sector; collaborating internationally to become an “international partner of choice in space activities”; growing the UK as a “science and technology superpower” through collaboration in high-profile space missions and backing space technologies to tackle global challenges; and developing resilient space capabilities and services to ensure critical national infrastructure is protected by a range of resilient space technologies.

It says the government will build on existing strengths in space, such as satellite manufacturing and communications. It hopes to establish leadership in high-growth areas such as satellite broadband operations (cut off from the European satellite navigation project, the UK government last year purchased a £400m stake in bankrupt satellite constellation company OneWeb) and emerging markets such as in-orbit servicing and space debris removal.

The document emphasises the importance of bringing together public civil and military space activities to ensure an integrated approach to combating hostile forces and emerging threats such as anti-satellite missiles and cyber-attacks on space infrastructure. The government will invest an additional £1.4bn in developing new military space capabilities above the £5bn already committed.

“As we enter an exciting new space age, we have bold ambitions for the UK to be at the vanguard of this industry in our role as a science superpower – whether it’s launching the first satellite from British soil, or leading major international space missions to help combat climate change,” said the science and innovation minister George Freeman. “Today’s National Space Strategy sets out our vision for ensuring that our thriving space sector lifts off for the long term. It will put rocket boosters under the UK’s most innovative space businesses, ensuring they can unlock private capital and benefit our home-grown space expertise.”

“Above all, by integrating our commercial and military space activities, we will use space to protect British interests abroad and on home soil, establishing the UK as one of the most attractive and innovative space economies in the world.”

The Defence Secretary Ben Wallace added: “The ability to operate in space is fundamental to the success of our Armed Forces but also in maintaining civilian, commercial, and economic activity. We launched UK Space Command this year for this very purpose.”

“Collaboration with academic and industry partners ensures we progress research and development needed to stay at the forefront of pioneering technology and ahead of our adversaries. The new National Space Strategy builds on our commitment to spend more than £6bn over the next 10 years to enhance our space capabilities, support vital skills, and expertise whilst strengthening the UK’s security at home and overseas.”

MPs have warned the government that it risks falling behind European neighbours in the new space race, due to the provision of comparatively little funding. The UK’s space budget is half of Germany’s and a third of France’s.

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