in Space

National Space Council re-launches UK space superpower ambitions

Posted 20 July 2023

The National Space Council met for the first time yesterday since its reinstatement as part of the UK’s mission to become a true space superpower and fulfil the country’s ambition to become Europe’s leading provider of small commercial launches by 2030.

Image courtesy Department for Science, Innovation and Technology

This builds on the already extraordinary growth of the UK space sector, which employs almost 49,000 people and generates an income of £17.5 billion.

The Council was co-chaired by the Science and the Defence Secretaries, flanked by other Cabinet Ministers and with insights from astronaut Tim Peake, amongst other expert support. The Council also saw an exhibition of lunar rocks, brought to Earth during the Apollo missions, serving as a fitting metaphor for the UK’s ambitions to aim for the moon and beyond.

The Council will be responsible for coordinating government policy on space and ensuring that the UK is well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the space sector to drive job creation and grow the economy.

Secretary of State for Science and Technology, Chloe Smith said: "Space is critical to modern life: global telecoms, weather forecasting, and our national security all rely on satellites and as the importance of space grows, so must our ambitions for the UK.

"Our reinstated National Space Council will ensure the government moves in lockstep with the sector to deliver our ambitions to grow the space economy. The UK is perfectly placed, whether geographically, economically or as a product of our world-class skills base, to be not only a European leader but a global power in space."

Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace said: "The war in Ukraine has highlighted just how critical space is to military operations. My department continues to work closely with DSIT to deliver the UK’s ambition for space to ensure we have the capabilities we need to protect and defend this critical domain and to exploit the opportunities it offers for operations into the future."

The meeting coincides with the release by DSIT and Ministry of Defence of a new National Space Strategy in Action, a significant milestone, which outlines the government’s commitment to the space sector and sets out a bold plan for how the UK can become a leading player in the global space race.

This publication sets out the significant progress the UK space sector has made since the launch of the joint civil-defence National Space Strategy in 2021, employing almost 49,000 people and generating an income of £17.5 billion, an increase of £1 billion from the previous year. It will also provide clarity on the direction of the sector for businesses, giving them the confidence to make long-term investment decisions.

It covers various priority areas, including:

  • the development of a Space Sector Plan to promote economic growth and resilience
  • the establishment of space clusters within the UK space ecosystem
  • a space workforce action plan
  • a review of space regulations to ensure effectiveness and innovation
  • the UK’s long term approach to civil capabilities and defence highly assured capabilities for space
  • progress of the Defence Space Strategy

Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: "The National Space Strategy in Action highlights the significant progress made towards delivering the government’s ambition to make the UK one of the most innovative and attractive space economies in the world.

"By catalysing investment into UK businesses, increasing our involvement in major space missions and championing the power of space to improve lives, the UK Space Agency is playing a major role in accelerating the growth of the UK’s thriving space sector."

Graham Peters, Independent Chair of the Space Partnership Board said: "The ‘National Space Strategy in Action’ demonstrates that now is an exciting time as the space sector translates the national ambition into tangible actions. Great progress is already being made and the Space Partnership is delighted to be actively supporting by bringing industry, academia and government together around a range of shared priorities, including the next steps to deliver the capabilities laid out in the NSS In Action, so that the sector works collectively to deliver the National Space Strategy."

Ben Bridge, Chairman, Airbus Defence and Space UK said: "We welcome this report and commend the government on progress and commitment to further developing the space sector. We look forward to the next phase of implementing the National Space Strategy, and the publication of the Space Sector Plan, to help the government deliver on its ambitions for unlocking growth through building and expanding national space capabilities. This will enable Airbus to further engage with the wider UK space ecosystem and extend our network of suppliers and interaction with SMEs across the country."

Mark Dankberg, Chairman and CEO, Viasat said: "I’m glad to support the United Kingdom’s goals within the National Space Strategy to unlock economic growth, investment, trade and scientific opportunities in the New Space Age. Viasat believes the emerging industry-led Space Sustainability Standard will be an essential part of achieving these goals. Actively managing use of our shared and finite resources – both orbital and spectrum - is the only way to keep space accessible. Accessibility is crucial for continued growth and innovation by as many participants in the global space economy as possible, including in the UK."

Alan Thompson, Head of Government Affairs at Skyrora, said: “The UK plans to become a leading launch nation in the LEO European launch market by 2030 and so the next seven years will be about enacting all initiatives to  help us achieve this. His Majesty’s Government (HMG) is gaining its own commitment to LEO and the benefits it can bring to the larger UK economy - the latest UKSA report on the size and health of the space sector shows that income growth in the industry has outpaced both the UK economy and the global space sector.

“The Action Plan goes further than 2021 National Space Strategy (NSS) to define policies for growth, where capabilities will be acquired, and maximise return on investment, which is greatly welcomed by the Skyrora team. We’re pleased to not only see the high level commitments that this NSS Action plan represents, but also the growing alignment and supporting role that HMG is playing itself in the realisation of the success of the space sector. Skyrora is looking forward to seeing the next steps in this phased approach to delivery, and in particular, the ambition for robust and efficient regulation. We hope that the existing engagement between regulators and industry can both allow the necessary knowledge procurement and practical experience required to take place, while at the same time, allow the permission process to continue.”

Alongside this milestone report, the government is today publishing brand new research that argues the ‘Case for Space’, capturing the economic value of space and the benefits it brings to the UK. Findings have demonstrated the positive impact of space activities on various industries, from the government’s investment of over £80 million in space weather forecasting, and leveraging position, navigation, and timing for emergency services, to utilising earth observation (EO) capabilities in the farming and food industry.

These announcements come hot on the heels of the recent Space Sustainability Symposium hosted by Minister Freeman last month, that brought together leading figures from the space industry, finance and academia to discuss a sustainable future for space and how the government can tackle the imminent threat of junk satellites in our atmosphere.




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