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Innovation In County Durham

Matching what's needed with what's possible.
Global opportunity for UK regions as space launch programme prepares for lift-off

Global opportunity for UK regions as space launch programme prepares for lift-off

Claire Barcham, Commercial Space Director at the UK Space Agency is one of a number of influential speakers in the space and satellite sector who will visit the North East for our Discover the Possibilities: Into the Blue annual conference. The conference looks at the opportunities that the ocean economy provides businesses who can use satellite data to solve problems and improve efficiencies in the ocean economy. In this article Claire discusses the “new space” age is opening up a wealth of opportunities for innovative businesses across the UK.

"The UK has a unique opportunity be a world leader in a new commercial space age. The North East of England and other regions have a vital role to play in the revolution sweeping the space sector. 

“Old space” was dictated and dominated by huge government institutes such as NASA, while “new space” is more commercially driven, using innovative technologies such as the new generation of smaller satellites.

Their size means payloads going into orbit are shrinking, reducing the reliance on giant rockets. Until recently, small satellites had no dedicated launch vehicles and had to piggy back on existing services, the equivalent of taking a space bus instead of a taxi. 

We believe there is now a tremendous opportunity to develop new launch vehicles that will be smaller to offer a dedicated premium service to get into orbit.

Other countries are doing the same, but thanks to our unique geographic position with its high latitude and remote coastal regions offering safe launches, this is a field in which the UK can lead the world.

The huge increase in global demand for access to space and sub-orbital space flight aligns with the UK’s target of winning a 10 per cent share of the worldwide space economy by 2030.

The Government’s Spaceflight Programme, jointly delivered by Department for Transport, UK Space Agency and Civil Aviation Authority, aims to kick-start small satellite launch and sub-orbital flight from UK spaceports. 

We have put legislation in place, through the Space Industry Act, and are developing regulatory processes to license launch activity and make sure it is safe and sustainable. There is financial support to help home-grown businesses flourish and attract overseas businesses, where we don’t yet have all the skills and capabilities required, and we are collaborating with international counterparts.

We last year announced funding for a spaceport in Scotland, which aims to offer opportunities across the UK in technology for satellites, launch services, and the applications that will use the data gathered in space. For instance, the North East has growing expertise in situational awareness which is the kind of innovative technology that can help keep space clear of debris and monitor the health of the environment on land and in the oceans. 

We are creating a major new industry with opportunities for businesses across the UK to be part of an innovative value chain that will bring space closer to home. Linked to this, we are also leading a series of education and outreach activities to help UK launch to inspire the next generation of space scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs." 

Claire Barcham,
Commercial Space Director, UK Space Agency

Find out more about the opportunities available in the space sector by attending the North East Satellite Applications conference 'Discover the Possibilities: Into The Blue' on 28th March 2019.