UK outlines space ambitions

The British National Space Centre today published ‘UK Civil Space Strategy: 2008 – 2012 and beyond’, a strategy document outlining how the UK can increase its share in the growing international space sector.

With the space sector supporting 70,000 jobs and contributing around £7bn to the economy, Science and Innovation Minister Ian Pearson said that the UK would continue making progress in this area through a series of measures.

These include the establishment of an international space facility at Harwell, Oxfordshire, which will focus on climate change, robotic space exploration and applications; and closer involvement in international initiatives on the future shape of space exploration to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

He added that the UK would remain involved in Earth observation, space science and telecoms developments; and set up a National Space Technology Programme to support the development of new, innovative technologies and services.

‘Applications from space underpin today’s major business sectors,’ said Pearson. ‘They provide essential information to understand the Earth’s environment, changing climate and weather and they enable great strides to be made in the scientific understanding of our Solar System and beyond; and, provide innovative tools for enhancing our quality of life.’

The British National Space Centre, which co-ordinates the UK’s civil space activities, will take the strategy forward.

‘BNSC’s strategy highlights many avenues that the UK can stride ahead in the space race, none more so than in the increasing need for highly accurate systems of earth observation to monitor and predict the impact of climate change,’ said National Physical Laboratory’s Nigel Fox. ‘Let’s not forget that we already have a wealth of independent assets that can help with this, especially through publicly-funded labs like the NPL.’

‘The UK space industry is growing faster than China’s,’ continued UKspace chair, John Auburn. ‘But the global space industry is growing even faster. We will have to work hard to keep up with one the world’s most dynamic, value adding sectors. This is an ambitious aim and we welcome the challenge. But we will need to work in partnership with government to realise this vision.’