The UK Aims to be one of the Global Space Superpowers

The UK Aims to be one of the Global Space Superpowers

United Kingdom (UK) is an icon to reckon with when it comes to satellites’ development and production. The reputation goes way in 1969, if not before when Nixon was the United States president. That’s when Francis Thomas Bacon, a British engineer, made history in the United States. His contribution to the Apollo mission was substantial. He was the developer of the cells that fueled Apollo 11. According to Nixon, were it not for him getting to the moon would have been impossible.

That’s just one of the many space heroes who hails from Britain. Some years back, as far as space-faring was concerned, the UK always took position three globally. It only came after the United States (US) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). For many years after the Apollo mission, companies revolving around space, especially on the work that early British engineers had built, emerged. They include Surrey Satellite Technology and Inmarsat.

Nevertheless, more than half a century later, Britain is quite far from being a real global space superpower. On the contrary, it hardly launches satellites. That’s despite its expertise in their development and production. For instance, since 1971, Britain has not launched a satellite independently. Additionally, out of the 2,600 satellites in orbit, only 5% belong to the UK.

However, things seem to be improving if one was to go by the statistics of the last ten years. Its growth is relatively rapid, and the rate ever since 2010 is impressive. The people it employs and the income it generates are 42,000 and £15 billion, respectively. Other satellite services such as navigation, earth observation, telecoms, and metrology support up to £300 billion of the UK GDP at large.

Despite all the progress, the government is aiming higher. Its wish is to see the UK become the number one choice of anyone, whether an individual or a company looking for launch services. It is not limiting launches to the orbit but even beyond. Whereas the small launch market’s global value stands at approximately £400 billion, the UK’s target is to have at least 10 % of it by 2031. 

The government is not all about words but also actions. It understands all too well that to achieve it, the UK must be able to launch its satellites into space. Therefore, it is investing in establishing spaceports all over the country. A good example is permitting Lockheed Martin to relocate to Shetland Space Centre, the Scottish island of Unst, for its small satellite launch operations.

That and space hubs in Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and England will help the UK penetrate the commercial space sector. The bottom line is the UK plans to reclaim its legacy of space innovations, including launching its satellites.

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