UK: National Space Policy Newsflash

Last Updated: 31 December 2015
Article by John Worthy

The UK government publishes first ever National Space Policy

On 13th December, as Britain's first ESA astronaut prepared for his historic launch to the International Space Station, the UK Government published its first National Space Policy. The UK is aiming to become the European hub for commercial spaceflight and related space sector technologies and this new policy sets out the Government's vision to capture a greater share of the world's thriving space market.

The Government highlights the importance of space to UK PLC, through 4 key principles:

1. Recognition that space is of strategic importance to the UK because of the value that space programmes deliver back to public services, national security, science and innovation and the economy.

  • The Government intends to drive the use of innovative services from space where they are the most cost effective solution to improve public services and in partnership with the wider UK space sector.
  • Defence operations and international security policy interests are heavily underpinned by access to space systems, and the Government will continue to use space capabilities to enhance the UK's national security.
  • The UK has an exceptional scientific landscape. With 3% of the global funding for research, the UK produces 16% of the world's most highly cited articles and is ranked second in the 2014 Global Innovation index. The Government recognises that scientific research and technology development go hand in hand, and will support the development of crucial areas, from communications to environmental management.
  • The Government recognises that significant returns on investment in space technology will be achieved through long-term targeted intervention, establishing an environment where the industry can thrive and manage risk. Investment in skills and technology will continue, especially on disruptive space techniques, data and technologies with market applications.
  • It will also champion the UK's capability within foreign markets, ensuring that our export sales remain strong and highlighting the many benefits for UK investors.

2. Commitment to preserving and promoting the safety and security of the unique space operating environment, free from interference.

  • The Government recognises the strategic importance of space, especially in protecting the national interest in space services, in fields such as transport, freight and resources, communication, synchronisation, weather monitoring and emergency services coordination.
  • It is also committed to treating space threats in same way as other strategic national interests, including space debris and junk and the increasing congestion in earth orbit.

3. Support of the growth of a robust and competitive commercial space sector, underpinned by excellent academic research.

  • The Government recognises the need to make the UK the most attractive place for space business, highlighting the lowest Corporation Tax in the G7 as a significant incentive for investment.
  • The Government intends to support collaboration between academic and industrial sectors to drive economic growth in the space sector.
  • The Government will continue to make finance markets work better for innovative, smaller businesses, including through the use of the British Business Bank and as part of the wider national infrastructure strategy, by developing further clusters such as the UK Space Gateway at Harwell.
  • The Government has also indicated its intention to establish launch facilities, such as a UK spaceport in order to secure the country's long-term capacity to participate in space-based activities.

4. Commitment to cooperating internationally to create the legal frameworks for the responsible use of space and to collaborate with other nations to deliver maximum benefit from UK investment in space.

  • The Government intends to increase its international space collaborative efforts and share best practices. The Government will work through established and emerging international space partnerships, and help secure the greatest possible return for the UK economy and science base from our participation in European programmes, secondment opportunities at ESA and through intelligent investment domestically in science, innovation and technology.
  • It also intends to push for an updated regulatory framework for space to replace the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

The National Space Policy shows that the UK is on the right track to deliver on its space ambitions. The space sector's value to UK PLC has grown from Ł6.5 billion in 2007 to Ł11.8 billion in 2014 – this policy recognises the UK Government's re-commitment to the UK space industry and the growth opportunities it can provide.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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