UK: Satellite And Space Projects News - Looking Ahead Through 2018

Last Updated: 12 January 2018
Article by John Worthy

At the start of the year, our team has selected some of the more exciting space developments coming up in 2018

LaunchUK - Spaceport plans:

As the UK continues its plans for new launch capability, 2018 will see the announcement of which bidders are to receive grant funding of up to £10 million for their development plans. For those who are successful, these grants will provide valuable support in the early stages of the spaceport business. Nevertheless, the market opportunities based on the expected market demand for smallsat launches from 2020 onwards are available to any operator who secures the necessary licences under the Space Industry Bill.

UK Space Industry Bill:

As the most significant new space flight regime for the UK in decades, the Space Industry Bill is expected to become law in mid-2018. The Bill contains a new framework for licensing and regulating spaceports and launch operators in the UK and is continuing through the parliamentary process. It will have its second reading in the House of Commons on 15 January 2018. Possibly more important, however, will be the secondary legislation that follows, and which will contain the real detail for spaceport operators and launch providers. Thus, interested parties will be keen to understand the impact of the technical and safety requirements, among other things, so that they can assess the compliance requirements and firm up their business plans. We will continue to feature the evolution of the Bill and the regulations as they progress.

UK Industrial Strategy launch funding:

Following the UK Space Agency's November 2017 announcement of a £50 million programme, as part of the new Industrial Strategy, we can expect funding opportunities to enable new satellite launch services and low gravity spaceflights from UK spaceports. The objective is to boost the economy and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. The latest programme will help UK spaceports access a global market for launching small satellites worth an estimated £10 billion over 10 years, and offer low gravity flights to advance cutting-edge science.

Space business in a time of change: evolution or revolution?

With the widely anticipated launch of the first batch of One Web's satellites scheduled for 2018, the industry is looking at an ongoing major evolution (some would say revolution) in business and operational models, as well as access to huge broadband capacity.

In this time of rapid change, many questions are being posed about the future shape of the sector: will satellite manufacturers be able to apply the learnings from a high volume, more commoditised production line to the highly bespoke traditional manufacturing process? How far will lower cost and reusable launch vehicles change the commercial dynamics of access to space? Will the spectrum allocation processes and national launch licensing schemes be able to respond to the needs of the new constellations? How far will investors and financiers step up to back these new ventures? And what will the surge in low latency capacity do to bandwidth pricing of established operators? These themes will play out over the coming year and beyond, as the (r)evolution gathers pace.


After the major milestone in December 2017, when the UK and EU agreed that negotiations can progress to the second phase, the all-important negotiations on a trade framework will begin in March 2018. British and European businesses will be following these developments closely, including the terms of a transition period, to give some certainty about the terms of trade after March 2019. In preparing for the possible Brexit outcomes, you may find our three step survival guide useful; this flags up three core business areas – people, money and regulation – and the steps that should be taken now to help assess the potential impact of Brexit.

WRC19: preparing the ground:

After the achievements of WRC-15, the industry will be continuing this year to prepare for the challenges and opportunities of WRC-19. For the past two years, the global satellite industry has been coordinating spectrum campaign activities in preparation for WRC-19. These activities, which include engagement with administrations in national, regional and global contexts, are focused on industry advocacy for satellite-related WRC-19 agenda items, such as: review of filing limitations, NGSO FSS in Q/V bands, additional spectrum for IMT/HAPS/RLAN (aka WiFi), improvements to satellite procedures, sharing between satellite and terrestrial IMT in S-band, unauthorised earth stations and additional FSS spectrum in 50 GHz V-band (50 GHz).

The current work of the global satellite industry builds upon previous WRC campaigns, notably for WRC-07, where the most contentious agenda item related to IMT at extended C-band; and WRC-15, where a wide range of satellite spectrum was pursued by wireless interests. In both 2007 and 2015, national administrations reaffirmed the essential role being played by satellite in the broader communications eco-system. Similarly, the WRC-19 campaign is focused on conveying to decision makers that the satellite industry is employing exciting innovations -- including services that are synergistic with and complementary to 4G and 5G -- that require continued access to spectrum. Further details of the campaign are available from Secretary General, GVF; Chairman, GVF Regulatory Working Group

National Satellite Testing Facility:

As the UK moves forward this year with its plans for a National Satellite Testing Facility, RAL Space will be proceeding with the selection of suppliers for the relevant workstreams. Bidders are currently being selected for the development of the NSTF and negotiations are expected to continue over the coming months. The project is backed by a £99 million funding programme, announced in July 2017. Due to open in early 2020, the new NSTF will be a world-class facility for the assembly, integration and testing of space instruments and satellites, positioning the UK to capitalise on the estimated 3,500 -10,000 satellites due to be launched by 2025,as well as facilitating the build of bigger and more technologically advanced satellites.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR):

Coming in May 2018 is the long awaited GDPR, a huge shift in the regulation of data flows, with considerable fines (up to 20 million Euros or 4% of group worldwide turnover, whichever is greater) for non-compliance a particular concern for businesses, both European and elsewhere. With the Regulation coming into force on 25 May 2018, those in the space industry should be ensuring they are compliant sooner rather than later. Our GDPR App provides essential insights to help meet the requirements of this Regulation.

Galileo Full Operational Capability:

Following the latest successful launches of Galileo satellites, Carlo des Dorides, executive director of European GNSS Agency, is looking forward to the Full Operational Capability. Among his latest comments, he focussed on the year ahead: "I see improved performance for both Galileo and EGNOS and ever-increasing market uptake. A particular focus will be on ensuring that we achieve the Enhanced Services milestone for Galileo in 2018. As we quickly move towards Full Operational Capability, I have no doubt that Galileo is poised to become the second GNSS constellation of choice – supporting billions of users worldwide". You can read the full announcement here.

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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