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National Space Strategy launches from Harwell Space Cluster

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National Space Strategy launches from Harwell Space Cluster. Image: Science Minister George Freeman visiting the NSTF.
Science Minister George Freeman visiting the NSTF.

The UK Science Minister, George Freeman, has launched the National Space Strategy (NSS) from the Harwell Space Cluster, the gateway to the UK space sector.

The strategy sets the UK government’s priorities for this high-growth sector, with a vision to:

  • unlock the UK’s multi-billion-pound space industry
  • boost private investment
  • capitalise on unique UK strengths such as satellite manufacturing.

After the strategy launch, the Minister visited the world-leading facilities on the campus, including the National Satellite Test Facility (NSTF) part of Science Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) RAL Space.

The UK already boasts a thriving space sector employing over 45,000 people in highly skilled jobs – from space scientists and researchers to engineers and satellite manufacturers.

The National Space Strategy (NSS) 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.

Setting out a vision

The NSS, which is led by the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Ministry of Defence, sets out the ways the government will take bold action to achieve its goals of:

  • 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 our partners and allies – demonstrating global leadership, and becoming an international partner of choice in space activities
  • 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.

Unlocking growth

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

He 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.”

Ensuring the UK keeps pace with our competitors and adversaries as space becomes more competitive, congested and contested, the Strategy commits to the delivery of the UK’s first Defence Space Portfolio. This will see the government investing an additional £1.4 billion in developing new capabilities over and above the £5 billion already committed to enhancing the military’s satellite communications.

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.”

STFC Executive Chair Professor Mark Thomson said: “This strategy shows that space remains a high priority for the government, and STFC will continue to play a vital role in delivering its aims.

“With our expertise, state-of-the-art facilities and strong links to space-technology businesses, STFC will continue the drive for the UK to become one of the world’s leading space economies and inspire the next generation of science leaders.”

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.

“The Harwell Space Cluster, is looking forward to working with all its partners across industry, academia and public sector to deliver on the National Space Strategy.”

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. We stand ready to help get the latest ideas off the ground.”

The government also published its 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.

The National Severe Space Weather Preparedness Strategy outlines a series of commitments by the government to work with industry, academia, and international partners to increase the country’s understanding and preparedness for a severe space weather event, while tapping into UK expertise already in place, such as the 24-hour Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre.

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