An overview of the UK’s growing investment in the space sector

By Martin / / UKSA / No Comments

According to a report released by London Economics this month, the UK space sector has been experiencing strong growth over the past two decades, reaching an average annual growth of 8.8 % a year since 2000. This steady growth has seen the turnover of the industry reach about £11.8 billion per year, making it one of the best performing sectors of the economy.

This growth can be attributed to many factors, from the boom in the global space industry, to increased commercialisation of the space, thus leading to better returns. However, one of the things that have helped to boost the growth in the industry is the continued investment by the UK government in both the UK and the global space industries.UK Space agency investment and marketing

Current investment in the space sector

The UK space agency has one of the largest investments in the global space industry, which is surprising considering that the agency does not yet have its own website.

In a European Space Agency (ESA) Council of Ministers meeting held on December 2016 in Switzerland, it was revealed that Britain had allocated more that €1.4 billion to be used for ESA programmes such as satellite technology, scientific research, space exploration, etc.

This allocation was given despite the fact that the country had voted in favour of Brexit, and are very likely to leave the union in the next couple of years. However, the new investment will help UK to increase their dominance in the global space market. In addition, it will help to boost some of the ongoing UK Space Agency ongoing programmes . These include:

1. The ExoMars program

ExoMars is a European Space Agency programme that is aimed at exploring Mars in order to find out whether the continent can support life, and possibly, a permanent human settlement. This programme is one of the largest beneficiaries of the latest UK investment in the global space industry, with €82.4 million of the donated money going specifically to this mission. The money will be used to fund the final phase of the mission, where a British Rover, the ExoMars, will be launched onto the surface of the planet by 2020. The rover will then drill the surface of the planet, becoming the only non-US rover to do so, and collect samples, which scientists believe will answer the question whether Mars can support life.

In addition to helping to complete the ExoMars mission successfully, the investment into the space industry by the UK government will help to develop important technology that will help to pave the way for similar missions in the future.

2. Environmental research

Another area where the UK government has invested well when it comes to the space industry is the environment. Out of the €1.4 billion given to the European Space Agency, €22 million will be used to fund the Space Situational Awareness programme. which helps to develop the technology needed to conduct space weather missions, thus helping to mitigate the risk of space weather on human health.

The UK Space Agency also has also invested heavily in earth observation from space, with €288.8 being set aside to fund the European Space Agency’s Earth Observation programme, The money will be used to develop high-end earth observation satellites and weather monitoring technology, thus making it easy to monitor and measure various weather aspects such as climate change, ocean water level, atmospheric pressure, rain patters, etc.

3. Satellite and comms development

The United Kingdom is one of the top countries in the world when it comes to the manufacture of satellites, and they are one of the main investment areas by the government when it comes to the space industry. In addition to the already existing satellite infrastructure owned by the UK Space Agency and other UK private space business, €319 million of the latest UK space investment  will be used to fund telecommunication projects, which will help to improve the current communication infrastructure in Europe.

4. Deep space exploration

UK has one of the largest market shares of the global space industry, at least 7 %, and thus it is one of the leading countries when it comes to the continuous exploration of the space. As a result, a good portion of the money allocated to the ESA has been set aside for space exploration programmes , with €41 million going towards the International Space Station and another €29 million being used to fund deep space exploration missions for ESA.

5. Space scientific research

Another area that the UK Space Agency invests heavily is the scientific research activities that are designed to help humankind understand the universe better. Part of the money that was allocated to the ESA will be used to fund science programmes , including space research missions such as the James Webb Space Telescope. This will help to advance the development of technologies that will become very useful when launching space exploration missions in the future.

UK companies that have invested

The UK government through the UK Space agency may have invested heavily in the space industry, but they are not the only players. Over the past two decades, private companies and businesses have stepped up their investment in the UK space sector, which is another reason why the sector has experienced such a high growth. among the most notable companies that have significant stakes in the UK space industry include:

1. Surrey Satellites Technology

Surrey Satellites Technology Ltd, is one of the most influential space company in the UK space industry. The company specialises in the design, manufacture, and operation of small satellites, and it has several satellite projects under its name and many more under construction. Surrey Satellites Technology also offers satellite launching services, where they launch payloads from either civilian, military, or commercial clients into space.

2. Lockheed Martin Systems

Lockheed Martin is a global aerospace and defence company, but it has a branch in the UK that has been very active in the UK space industry. It specialises in the design and manufacturing of a wide range of products for both military and space industries.

3. British Interplanetary Society

When it comes to investing in the UK space industry, investment opportunities are not only limited to business and government organisations. There are several space advocacy organisations that are actively engaged in the space industry and one of the best examples is the British Interplanetary Society. The society helps to support and promote astronautics and the exploration of space. In their efforts, the society has been involved in a lot number of space activities such as a sub-orbital flight, study of the stars, and study of other planets, including a report that designed a manned space station in Mars.

4. British Spaceplanes

British Spaceplanes (BSP) is a space company based in Bristol, United Kingdom, which has been involved in a number of space-related projects, with the most notable one being the design of spaceplanes that support orbital and sub-orbital space flights. The company is also involved in research work aimed at making the cost of accessing the space more affordable.

5. Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space is a division of the Airbus Group, which is involved in aerospace and defence project. The company is one of the largest space and defence enterprise in the world – second largest in the world and the largest in Europe. The company specialises in the design and manufacture of a wide range of space systems that include vehicle launchers, space transportation system, earth observation satellites, telecommunication satellites, spaceplanes, rocket engines, etc.

6. AdaCore

AdaCore is a software company that is involved in the development of mission-critical software and applications that are used in aerospace systems. The software and applications developed by the company have been used, for example, in the ExoMars programme (on-board software), IceCube Satellite system (flight software), CubeSat satellites, and on the International Space Station.

7. Astrosat

Astrosat is another leading space company in the UK that has invested significantly in the UK space industry. The company has three main company divisions: space technology division, earth observation division, and satellite communication division, all which are heavily involved in the UK space industry.

 

The impact of increased investment

The UK space sector has been growing steadily over the past two decades, a period during which it has had a significant impact on the country. Below is a look at some of the top ways the UK has been affected by this fast-growing sector:

1. Improved economic situation

One of the most significant ways on how the UK space sector has affected Britain is through its contribution to the GDP. With a turnover of almost £12 billion pounds, the UK space industry is one of the best performing sectors of the economy and it has, without a doubt, helped to boost the economy when some other sectors have not been doing so well.

2. Improved infrastructure

The UK space agency and private space companies/agencies have invested heavily in infrastructure such as satellites and telecommunication systems over the past two decades, to an extent that England has emerged as one of the largest producers of satellites. These satellites and telecommunication systems have helped to improve the infrastructure, thus allowing the UK citizens to easily access affordable voice data, internet data, and TV services.

3. Increased employment

The continued investment by the UK government in the space industries has helped to create several jobs, thus helping to increase employment rates in the UK. The continued growth of the UK space industry over the last two decades has also helped to encourage several businesses and companies to invest in the space industry, further creating more jobs.

Ral Space UK Space Sector

 

4. Growth in other sectors

The growth of the UK space industry has helped to boost the growth of other sectors as well. For example, space systems require software and other applications in order to function. Therefore, continued growth of the UK space sector has helped to create business opportunities for several other businesses in the country, thus helping to grow the economy even more.

5. Protection of the environment

The UK Space Agency has been very dedicated in funding space weather programmes that are designed to ensure that continued exploration of the space does not negatively affect the earth’s weather. In addition, the growth of the UK space industry has led to the discovery of high-end weather monitoring technology such as the earth observation satellites, which can be used to monitor weather patterns all over the world. Therefore, with these technologies, the human race can be able to identify areas with environmental issues and fix them before they become too serious.

6. Imprint on the global market

Lastly, the continuous growth of the UK space sector over the last two decades has helped to propel the United Kingdom into the world map as one of the leading countries when it comes to space utilisation. Already, the UK is one of the largest producers of satellite systems in the world. The UK also boasts of a very significant market share in the global space industry, which has been made possible with the rapid growth of the industry.

Turnover of £11.8 billion p/year makes UK space industry one of its best performing industries Click To Tweet

With an average growth rate of about 8.8 % and a turnover of £11.8 billion per year, the UK space industry is one of the best performing industries in the UK, and one of the leading space industries in the world. What is even more amazing than the rapid growth in the past two decades is that the economy is not showing any signs of slowing down, which has lead many experts to predict that the sector can hit its target of £40 billion in revenue per year by the year 2030.

And with the continued government investment in the space industry, not to mention the ever-increasing involvement of the private sector in the UK space industry, this target seems like it is almost a done deal, and all that remains to do is wait and see.

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