UK urged to "seize the chance" ahead of big space conference

Athena, the UK’s new national team in space, formed by Serco, Inmarsat, CGI UK and Lockheed Martin UK, has published a report with support from Bryce Space and Technology that showcases the opportunities available to the UK through growth in its space sector and how to seize the moment to do so.

Ahead of the defence space conference (17-18 November) the team argues that now is the right time to propel the country towards an ambitious, achievable goal of becoming a respected space-faring nation, by galvanising the UK and its society, across both civilian and defence communities.

Athena – representing an end-to-end, sovereign and UK-based approach to space services – believes that the United Kingdom has reached a pivotal moment in its space aspirations. Currently it is trailing behind nations such as France and Japan, who are considered robust space powers due to the depth and sophistication of their space capabilities, which they put to good use in their pursuit of a clearly defined national strategy and the resulting widely-recognised economic, technical, societal and security benefits.

Chris Rocks, Capability Director Space and Security at Serco, said: “The UK is at a critical point and the time to step forward and become a leading space nation is now. The UK Government is taking steps towards achieving this aim with the formation of the National Space Council and its forthcoming National Space Strategy. Industry also needs to play its part and it is in this spirit of cooperation that Athena has published this report to set out a proposed roadmap to success with emphasis on key focus areas that can deliver the most benefit to the UK to make its space ambitions into reality.”

The report, called A New Approach to Space, recommends seven key areas of focus for the UK to 2030:

  • Integrate military and civil space operations into a National Space Operations Centre to jointly operate key national infrastructure and maximise data sharing
  • Invest in satellite communications to deliver a secure platform for military and government
  • Develop a sovereign space-based Positioning, Navigation and Timing capability to address urgent national requirements and to enable burden sharing with key allies
  • Establish satellite launch operations from the UK
  • Invest in research and development and create a National Space Academy to nurture STEM talent and develop a career pathway into space
  • Increase contribution to space domain awareness
  • Participate in the European Space Agency Copernicus Programme and further support earth observation activity with additional UK programmes

The report identifies a set of principles and enablers to achieve these goals, including effective regulation and licensing, public awareness-raising, and the development of a diverse supply chain. Activity should be driven by the development of a National Space Strategy, the report recommends.

Space and its associated capabilities are strategically vital to civil, commercial, security and defence policy ends. As a nation, the UK is wholly reliant on it for everyday activities such as satnav for commuting, through to precision timing for banking, global navigation services for shipping and earth observation services for weather forecasting.

Athena was formed to seize development opportunities that new space technologies will offer, driving economic growth for the UK and diversification across the British space sector as Athena succeeds. The combined capabilities and technologies available to Athena will enhance further the country’s ability to deliver the UK’s space strategy, which aims to increase the value of space to wider industrial activities to £500 billion, generate an extra £5 billion in UK exports and attract £3 billion of additional inward investment.

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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