Government investment funds space-technology programme

The UK’s space sector has welcomed a £10m government investment through the creation of the National Space Technology Programme.

The government has also promised to improve regulation to support UK companies and pave the way for a space tourism industry, outlining the changes in a Growth Review document released alongside the Budget.

The technology programme will be co-funded by the industry to support the development of new spacecraft components and systems.

It will be carried out at the International Space Innovation Centre (ISIC) at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus — one of several science facilities to receive capital funding from the budget.

Astrium’s UK chief executive officer, Colin Paynter, said the programme would play a vital part in continuing to drive innovation in Britain’s space industry.

‘This additional money will be matched by industry investment and shows a real commitment to growth within the sector,’ he said.

The UK Space Agency said in a statement that the government had answered industry’s call for strategic investment in space technology and the two would work together to help industry grasp opportunities in the rapidly expanding sector.

Other changes announced by the government included reform of the Outer Space Act to limit the liability costs of UK operators, providing clearer guidance on security aspects of export deals, and working with Ofcom to ensure full and fair access to satellite orbit slots.

The government also said it wants the UK to be the European centre for space tourism and would work with international authorities to define regulations for the new vehicles that will offer low-cost access to space.

Paynter said the regulatory changes would help put Britain on a more even footing with other space nations.

‘Removing the uncapped liability on UK space assets contained in the current Outer Space Act will remove a significant hurdle and we hope it will encourage satellite operators to develop and even relocate to Great Britain,’ he said.

‘There has been much discussion in the space community that “paper filings” by organisations who reserve orbital slots with little intention of ever launching a satellite have impeded the development of even more innovative space services.

‘A move to resolve this situation will make it easier for new entrants to the satellite services marketplace — which could greatly benefit the UK,’ Paynter added.