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Government backs plans for UK spaceport

Commercial space flights could launch from a UK spaceport as part of range of measures designed to help shape the future of Britain’s growing space industry.

The Government Response to the Space Innovation and Growth Strategy (IGS) Action Plan 2014 – 2030 and the National Space Security Policy (NSSP) set out plans to achieve a £40bn UK space industry by 2030 and a coherent approach to protecting the UK’s space assets.

In a statement David Willetts, minister for universities and science, said: ‘The space sector continues to thrive, and is one of our Eight Great Technologies with the potential to propel UK growth.

‘Space industries already support 95,000 full time jobs and generate £9.1bn for the economy each year, and our response to the Growth Action Plan shows our commitment to secure its future growth and realise ambitions to develop a viable UK space port for commercial space flight.’

The government said it has broadly welcomed the suggestions made in the IGS and in addition to committing stronger support for export and agreeing further work to improve regulatory framework for space activity, the response also incorporates measures to create and sustain new business in related markets.

The National Space Security Policy sets out an approach to the UK’s space security interests, outlining measures to make Britain more resilient to the risk of disruption to space services and capabilities. It is also intended to enhance national security interests through space, promote a safe and more secure space environment, and enable industry and academia to exploit science and grasp commercial opportunities.

Philip Dunne, minister for defence equipment, support and technology, said: ‘This policy is about galvanising our skills, our resources and our raw talent to promote resilience to the risks of operating in space – in both the civilian and military spheres.’

In implementing the National Space Security Policy, some of the early priorities will include mapping the UK’s dependency on space across government, critical infrastructure and key industrial sectors and assessing the extent of resilience in each of these fields. There will also be collaboration across government and with national and international partners to share capability where it is possible to do so, particularly in the fields of tracking space debris and near Earth objects.

 Actions emerging from the IGS include:

  • The Government will finalise the changes to the Outer Space Act limit on third party liability as soon as possible, and the UK Space Agency will review the UK approach to regulation of cubesats and other small satellites. This will improve the UK space sector’s international competitiveness.


  • The UK Space Agency will simplify the process of obtaining satellite licenses, including working with Ofcom to see if a commitment to a swifter and more seamless process could be delivered and reviewing the economic cost of delivering the space licensing regime and fees.


  • Government will continue work to deliver a regulatory environment that promotes enterprise and inward investment in the UK. This response acknowledges the challenges of a global market and the Government will work with new entrants into the market to ensure that inward investment means the creation of jobs and returns for the UK economy.


  • In July 2014, the UK Space Agency will issue the first results from the work of a cross-government National Space Flight Coordination Group that was set up to take forward the ambition of developing a UK space port and starting commercial space flight from the UK.


  • The UK Space Agency will double the funding level of the UK Space for Smarter Government Programme annually from April 2014. The programme will unlock the potential of space to make the delivery of public sector services more effective and efficient.



Readers' comments (7)

  • If the UK wishes to be a serious player in the space industry it is going to have to ditch 40 years of free market dogma and accept that substantial state funding is needed to get high cost projects with long economic lead times off the ground. You only have to look at the power industry to see the private sector alone is incapable of making large long term investment or competing against mostly state backed foreign companies, despite having access to the best engineers and technology in the world.

    The 40 year experiment with extreme free market economics this country has been subjected to must come to an end. We must act on the evidence and follow Germany's lead and go for a pragmatic free market approach where the state recognises its role and catalyses and enables large strategic investment which the private sector has shown time and time again it is incapable of.

    Let us hope the government's statements on a UK launcher capability, as that is what we are talking about here, is not simply spin.

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  • As one of the world's most respected and influential economists JK Galbraith said of the UK economy a few years after the grocer's daughter and her gang of money (as opposed to wealth) creators started to dismantle our real world, "it will probably take the UK economy 100 years to recover, if ever!"

    How many more times are we to be reminded?
    Mike B

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  • The question is why do we need out own launch /spaceport? Surely this is better done as part of a European Space Agency - although accept there are serious short comings in the current ESA including age discrimination issues - such as banning any engineer over 35 from some of its training schemes - sorry any 35 year olds the ESA thinks you are passed it!

    That aside, space is expensive, so it makes sense for a full European if not a world space program effort with suitable state backing.

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  • Instead of spending £80 billion on HS2 a 19th century technology concept - why not invest it on a truly futuristic technology such as getting a Briton first to Mars!!!

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  • Mike B - Did JK Galbraith have anything to say about the restrictive practices imposed on British industry by the Trade Unions that were the real destroyers of British industry and wealth creation.

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  • Dear John K,
    Unlikely as he was an adviser to JFK, not MT (I am so old I recall shedding tears when he was assassinated!

    We have exchanged comments before, and I value your contribution greatly.

    If you subscribe to the concept that 'there are no bad armies, only bad officers' you must logically ? subscribe to the 'there are no bad workforces, only poor management' corollary
    It follows surely that if the management of organisations within a society/ management/industry/economic unit are so pi*8-poor and treat their staff so appallingly that they have no alternative but to 'band-together' into unions to salvage something from the 'cake'... then the basis of the fault lies at the top, not the bottom of society.

    Restrictive practices/closed shops?
    believe me, most workforces and their elected leadership are babes in arms by comparison with the real restrictive practices! You too must have seen the news-paper headlines of this very day: describing how barristers are deliberately disrupting the passage of major fraud cases to the Courts (let alone dealing with them) because they are angry that they will only earn £100,000 from prosecuting or defending such. Its a joke, but the joke has been on us all for far too long.

    If you would like to provide your personal e-mail (and our moderator is happy) I will provide full details of my academic research -which addresses these situations.

    Mike B

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  • In reply to Mike B.
    It was bad management from business, government an unions all together which destroyed British industry. They were all guilty. Add to that an unbalanced economic and monetary system which only seems to reward greed and private wealth. We need to change!

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