Monday, December 14, 2015

UK Space Policy Follows US Down the "NewSpace" Path

          By Chuck Black

British astronaut Timothy Peake became the first British citizen to reach the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday and the UK government is using the event to highlight its plan for a distinctly private sector space program.

On Sunday, the British government released its first national space policy, a slim, fifteen page document which, among other things, sets the goal of growing UK private space activities into a £40Bln ($83.2Bln CDN) annual industry by 2030 from its current 2014 estimates of £11.8Bln ($24.54Bln CDN). The policy is also intended to grow the UK space workforce from 35,000 workers to 100,000 over the next 15 years.

Major Peake, shown here during training, launched on a Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday as part of the expedition 46 "Principia Mission," along with US astronaut Tim Kopra and Russian commander Yuri Malenchenko  on a six-hour trip to the ISS. As outlined in the December 14th, 2015 Telegraph post, "Tim Peake's launch into space will inspire a generation, says scientist," the British public would be unlikely to know much about the latest mission had a British astronaut not been on board. Photo c/o Victor Zelentsov.

The December 14th, 2015 Financial Times article, "Peake provides lift-off for renewed British space policy," even quoted Sajid Javid, the UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills as referencing the classic Star Trek character Mr. Spock in support of the new policy. According to Javid:
Historically, we haven’t been a major player in space programmes. This policy will change that because, in the words of my hero Mr Spock, to do anything else would be highly illogical...
"Fascinating!" Image c/o Paramount.
According to Javid, “This is the first time that we have set out the wider UK government’s approach to space, creating a stable policy environment for industry and business.”

And as outlined in the December 14th, 2015 International Business Times post, "First-Ever UK Space Policy Quotes Mr. Spock, Says Anything Other Than Growing A Private Space Industry Would Be 'Illogical'" commercial satellite companies are already a major contributor to the UK economy:
Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. manufactures satellites and payloads, Inmarsat Plc delivers mobile satellite communications for broadband, machine-to-machine and maritime safety. Avanti Communications Group has its own fleet of satellites providing coverage to Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Airbus Defense & Space has nine facilities in the U.K. The government has also invested in growth sectors and tech incubators like the Satellite Applications Catapult and the UK Space Gateway in Harwell.
But the UK space industry thinks there is an opportunity to get even bigger. According to the new report, space has become increasingly important to modern Britain and needed to be cultivated.

British private sector astronaut Helen Sharman, who traveled on board Soyuz TM-12 with commander Anatoly Artsebarsky and flight engineer Sergei Krikalyov, to the MIR space station in 1991. Graphic c/o Daniel Space Collecting.

Of course, Peake isn't the only UK astronaut to go into space. British chemist Dr Helen Patricia Sharman visited the Mir space station in 1991, as part of Project Juno, a private sector arrangement between the Soviet Union and a group of British companies.

But the latest venture, with the publicly funded Peake, a current European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut, has served as the jumping off point for a number of distinctly private sector initiatives. As outlined in the December 13th, 2015 UK government press release, "National Space Policy: science fiction into science fact," the new policy is specifically designed to support "the Government’s new investments in areas such as human spaceflight and microgravity research as space becomes an increasingly essential part of our daily lives..."

In that way, and as outlined in the November 26th, 2015 post, "Say Hello to the New US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act," recent American legislation has essentially attempted to acknowledge and encourage pretty much the same thing, while using a slightly different methodology.

Chuck Black.
Will Canada ever get around to developing the same sort of useful policy?

Here's hoping...

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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