UK Seeks to Boost Sovereign Space Capabilities, Council Report Says

Benjamin Hale for Distilled Post

The Council for Science and Technology (CST) welcomes the recent re-establishment of the National Space Council and publication of the National Space Strategy in Action report. Capability in space-based technologies is increasingly critical to a prosperous economy, national security, resilience, and sustainability.

Annually, the space sector is worth over £17.5 billion, while space-based satellites underpin £370 billion of wider economic activity. With the global space market projected to reach £1 trillion by 2030, this presents a clear opportunity for the UK to build sovereign capability to ensure both our competitive global edge and reinforce our national resilience. In light of this, the CST wrote to the Chancellor and Secretary of State for the DSIT to offer advice on the prioritisation of investment in the capabilities laid out in the National Space Strategy.

Key Recommendations

The report, titled "Priorities for Strengthening the UK's Sovereign Space Capability", outlines recommendations for growing the UK's domestic space sector so it is less reliant on foreign partnerships. It was prepared for the UK Space Agency and the Ministry of Defence.

Key recommendations include investing in launch capabilities, building satellite production facilities, and developing a national space traffic management system. Currently the UK relies heavily on other countries, particularly the US, to launch its satellites and provide critical space services.

"Developing sovereign capabilities in areas like launch, manufacturing, and space domain awareness will be vital for sustaining the UK's competitive space sector and meeting defence needs," said Sir Patrick Vallance, head of the Council for Science and Technology.

The report calls for increased government funding for small launch vehicle development and operation of vertical launch sites in Scotland. It also advises setting up a UK factory for building OneWeb-style satellites to help replace reliance on European consortiums. Additionally, the Council recommends establishing a national space traffic coordination center to monitor objects in orbit and prevent collisions. This would enhance the UK's ability to operate satellites safely and independently.

Benefits of Implementing Recommendations

The UK space industry has grown rapidly in recent years, now generating £16.5 billion in revenue annually. But only 10% of activity involves sovereign capabilities, the report notes. It warns that over-reliance on other nations creates risks if partnerships break down.

By implementing the report's recommendations, the UK can expand its domestic space capabilities and ensure it has the resilient, sovereign technologies needed to harness the benefits of space in the future.