Space industrial plan

11th July 2024

The introduction of the previous government’s Space Industrial Plan (“the plan”) in March 2024, sees the UK looking to advance its space industry, achieving five ambitious capability goals.

The importance of space

The UK recognises that space offers a vast range of opportunities, from 3D-printing organs in space which reduces transplant waiting times to expanding our resources like solar power. In particular, we send satellites out to space for a range of different functions, including taking pictures of our planet which is useful in observing the climate, and sending TV signals and phone calls around the world.

Accordingly, the general purpose of the plan is to make advancements in space, as it is viewed as a crucial element of our scientific landscape. This means it is important for the UK to harness its capabilities in space in order to achieve its aim of becoming a science and technology superpower by 2030.

The five capability goals

The previous government took a growth-based approach to the plan, in its objective to encourage innovation and competition in the UK space sector by developing a multitude of space enterprises.

The plan sets out five specific capability goals which will act as guidance for the direction of resources and efforts when the UK looks to achieving its objective, as set out above. The five specific capability goals are in areas of strategic importance for the UK and are deemed to be an expected focus in the space sector. These five specific goals are:

  • Space Domain Awareness (“SDA”)
  • In-Orbit Servicing and Assembly and Manufacturing (“IOSAM”)
  • Space data for Earth applications
  • Position, Navigation and Timing (“PNT”)
  • Satellite communication technology.

Space Domain Awareness is important in ensuring security over the UK’s space domain as it enables the UK to implement spacecraft surveillance and tracking. Focusing on SDA will build upon the UK’s existing capabilities in this area and allow the delivery of sensing and data management for its spacecraft and objects in space.

The plan prioritises In-Orbit Servicing and Assembly and Manufacturing. Focus on IOSAM would secure UK leadership in the evolving market of manufacturing in space as well as new environmentally conscious in-orbit services such as debris removal.

The delivery of space data for Earth applications is also a priority because it recognises the importance of utilising digital infrastructure to observe aspects such as space weather monitoring; something which is useful for daily weather reports as well as monitoring global warming.

A focus on Position, Navigation and Timing allows for the development of a new space-based PNT system which provides a higher precision for UK space services, which is important in navigating space activity.

For PNT, the Ministry of Defence will work with the National Timing Centre to produce a system that can be used as a “last resort”, which is imperative for improving the UK’s national resilience to threats in space.

The plan also signifies the importance of working on the UK’s leadership in satellite communication technology. The former government looked to grow, retain and attract satellite communication companies in the UK, in the hope that they develop services which will match up to our need for defence in this area as well as technologies that can compete for global commercial opportunities in the satellite communications sector.

These five specific goals will enhance the UK’s capabilities in the space sector and support its objective of being a leader in the technology sector, offering a wide range of services while protecting its space domain from threats such as cyber-attacks.

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