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

The UK government has published its National Space Strategy, outlining its long-term ambitions for the country to boost private investment in the sector and become a ‘world-class space nation’.

The UK aerospace sector is worth more than £16 billion. The UK currently has a six percent share of the global space market and aims to expand it to 10 percent 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 expected to grow from £270 billion in 2019 to £490 billion by 2030. It aims to encourage innovation by unlocking UK space companies through private funding while positioning the UK on the frontier of space research.

The four pillars of the strategy are: unlocking growth in the UK space sector; work together 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 supporting space technologies to address global challenges, and developing resilient space capabilities and services to ensure that 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 production 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 bought a £400m stake in bankrupt satellite constellation company OneWeb last year) and emerging markets such as in-orbit maintenance and disposal of space debris.

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

“As we enter an exciting new space age, we have bold ambitions for the UK to be at the forefront of this industry in our role as a scientific superpower – whether launching the first satellite from UK soil or leading the from major international space missions to helping combat climate change,” said Science and Innovation Secretary George Freeman. “Today’s National Space Strategy sets out our vision to ensure that our thriving space industry takes off in the long term. It will rank rocket boosters among the UK’s most innovative space ventures, enabling them to unlock private capital and take advantage of our homegrown space expertise.”

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

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace added: “The ability to operate in space is fundamental to the success of our armed forces, as well as sustaining civilian, commercial and economic activities. It is precisely for this purpose that we launched UK Space Command this year.”

“Collaborating with academic and industry partners ensures that we make progress in the research and development necessary to stay ahead of breakthrough technology and outpace our adversaries. The new National Space Strategy builds on our commitment to spend more than £6 billion over the next 10 years to enhance our space capabilities, support essential skills and expertise while strengthening the UK’s security at home and abroad. ”

MEPs have warned the government that it risks falling behind Europe’s neighbors in the new space race due to relatively little funding. The UK’s space budget is half that of Germany and a third that of France.