By Dan Lewis of the Economic Policy Centre.
Today, the Economic Policy Centre launches a new paper by James C. Bennett, SPACE: Britain's New Frontier.
An anglophile from Wyoming with 30 years of experience in the private,
entrepreneurial and public sectors of the space industry, Jim has
sketched out how the UK could actually succeed in what is know as New Space
– widely understood as the emergence of international private
ownership, financing and innovation in the space industry at arm's
length from government. This is perhaps most forcefully embodied by Virgin Galactic - British marketing and finance, American engineering and techonology and Emirates financing.
Arguably, the UK’s underperformance in Space which started with the
implementation of the 1875 Explosives Act (beat that example for
regulation stymying long-term innovation). This act prevented crucial
rocket experimentation in the 1930s which happened in Germany, the USA
and Russia. The paper explains the genesis of the industry in the
postwar period and brings us up to the present. The UK does have
significant niches (like satellite insurance – a classic financial
export – and small satellite design) in the global space industry which
command a lot of respect.
give you some numbers, the UK Space Industry turns over around £6
billion pounds per annum and public support amounts to some £268 m. The
big surprise to me what that much of this, a good three-quarters goes
on European programmes via the European Space Agency – an EU Quango.
It's extraordinary that we do so little with the USA, Canada, Australia
or India – this really must change.
The paper makes the following
1. The UK should broaden its cooperative perspective beyond Europe –
75% of funds are currently allocated to the European Space Agency.
2. The new UKSA must seek to take advantage of NASA’s international
cooperative programmes which the UK has failed to do in the past
3. The Commonwealth States – Australia, Canada and India – all have
areas of space expertise which the UK could successfully cooperate
4. Therefore the UK should aim to cooperate with Canada which has expertise in radar imaging satellites
5. And with Australia which has extensive launch ranges
6. As well as with India which has across the board capabilities
including launch vehicles, satellites and now interplanetary probes
7. The UKSA should send key personnel to Ottawa for an extended
stay at the Canadian Space Agency to study what a small-to-medium
scale agency can accomplish
8. The UK should explore collaboration with Canada and Australia on
dual-use (civil and military) space technologies and systems like
communications and earth observations satellites to leverage UK defence
investments in space and the high level of trust of the USA on
9. The UK should seek to learn and copy from the Isle of Man’s favourable operating environment for space commerce
10. The UK should seek to develop a civil regulatory framework for
spaceflight and space activity that attracts capital from all round
11. The UK should seek to actively earn from the USA’s deep
experience of licensing launch sites and spaceports with a view to the
future licensing of sites like Lossiemouth in Scotland
Says author, Jim Bennett;
“Britain faces an historic opportunity to be a major player in space and the government must rise to the challenge. You don’t need Astronauts to have a successful space
programme. The New Space environment now offers British entrepreneurs,
financiers and scientists a chance to take a seat at the main table on their
own terms. Britain has networks of close ties, experiences, and mutual
trust not just in one direction, but in three: Europe, the USA, and
the Commonwealth. It should seek to maintain its existing productive
ties with Europe, exploit the ease of business between the US and
Britain to develop New Space entrepreneurship, and enhance its
cooperation with the often-underestimated capabilities of Canada,
Australia, and India”.