National Space Strategy launches from Harwell Space Cluster

Science Minister George Freeman visiting the NSTF. Credit: STFC
National Space Strategy launched

The UK Science and Innovation Minister George Freeman headed to Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire yesterday to launch the National Space Strategy (NSS) from the Harwell Space Cluster.

The strategy sets out how to strengthen the UK as a world class space nation by firing up its multibillion-pound space industry.

Space already plays a pivotal role in our daily lives, and is a vital part of the UK economy, worth over £16 billion per year.

The UK already has a thriving space sector employing more than 45,000 people in highly skilled jobs – from space scientists and researchers to engineers and satellite manufacturers. The National Space Strategy looks to harness these strengths and support British companies to seize future opportunities, with the global space economy projected to grow from an estimated £270 billion in 2019 to £490 billion by 2030.

The government’s National Space Strategy sets out the government’s long-term vision for how the UK can establish itself as one of the most attractive  space economies in the world. The government aims to empower British space businesses to innovate and grow by unlocking private finance, while positioning the UK at the forefront of international space research – whether that’s by supporting the first British spaceport satellite launch due in 2022, or leading international space missions that help tackle global challenges such as climate change.

During his visit, the Science Minister visited research institutes and companies within the space cluster to find out more about the campus’ role in supporting the UK’s space sector growth.

Dr Barbara Ghinelli, Director of Harwell Campus Business Development and Clusters, said: “Harwell Space Cluster has more space companies within walking distance than anywhere else on our planet.

“A globally unique asset, it showcases the UK’s internationally competitive space technology and expertise to a wide audience. Through its stakeholders and companies it is connected to capability across the UK, linking supply chains to international customers.”

One of the flagship facilities of the space cluster is STFC’s own RAL Space. It has worked on 217 instruments that have flown in space, including the recent ESA Solar Orbiter mission and upcoming Webb Space Telescope. RAL Space also offers space science and technology research and development alongside world class facilities to support the UK space sector.

Director of RAL Space and Chair Cross UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Space Coordination Group, Professor Chris Mutlow, said: “We’re delighted to welcome the Science Minister to the NSTF today. The new facility will play an important role in enabling the UK’s thriving satellite manufacturing industry to grow, offering complete testing for large spacecraft for the very first time in the UK.”

Science and Innovation Minister George Freeman said: :As we enter an exciting new space age, we have bold ambitions for the UK to be at the vanguard of this industry in our role as a science superpower – whether it’s launching the first satellite from British soil, or leading major international space missions to help combat climate change.

“Today’s National Space Strategy sets out our vision for ensuring that our thriving space sector lifts off for the long term. It will put rocket boosters under the UK’s most innovative space businesses, ensuring they can unlock private capital and benefit our home-grown space expertise.

“Above all, by integrating our commercial and military space activities, we will use space to protect British interests abroad and on home soil, establishing the UK as one of the most attractive and innovative space economies in the world.”

The Strategy has four cross-cutting pillars where government will take bold action to achieve its goals (editor: The government likes pillars, we’ve noticed. It puts pillars into pretty much every strategy it publishes):

  • unlocking growth in the UK space sector – supporting UK businesses, researchers, and innovators to grow the space sector and level up our economy
  • collaborating internationally with UK partners and allies
  • growing the UK as a science and technology superpower – continuing to collaborate in high profile space missions and backing space technologies to tackle global challenges such as climate change
  • developing resilient space capabilities and services – ensuring our critical national infrastructure can rely on a wide range of resilient space technologies and delivering the UK Defence Space Portfolio to strengthen UK security at home and overseas.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The ability to operate in space is fundamental to the success of our Armed Forces but also in maintaining civilian, commercial and economic activity. We launched UK Space Command this year for this very purpose.

“Collaboration with academic and industry partners ensures we progress research and development needed to stay at the forefront of pioneering technology and ahead of our adversaries.

“The new National Space Strategy builds on our commitment to spend more than £6 billion over the next 10 years to enhance our space capabilities, support vital skills and expertise whilst strengthening the UK’s security at home and overseas.”

Also published yesterday was the National Severe Space Weather Preparedness Strategy, which sets out a 5-year vision for boosting UK resilience to the risk of severe space weather events.

Severe space weather refers to the variable conditions on the sun and in space that can influence the performance of technology and national infrastructure that we use on Earth – from power grid outages to disruption of satellite-navigation systems that we use.