Space tourism for Britain

Posted on 16 Nov 2010 by The Manufacturer

With the Russians releasing plans for a space hotel and Richard Branson having a landing strip for Space Ship One, among other developments, it’s easy to see why there is a lot of excitement in the space industry. But what will be the shape of Britain’s long term space industry when its main companies – BSkyB, EADS Atrium and QinetiQ – specialise in satellite technology?

The recently launched 20-year Space Innovation and Growth Strategy, jointly led by government, industry and academia, is clearly a step in the right direction. After a six month period of consultation, however, the importance of space tourism seems to have not been fully addressed.

Space minister David Willets is asking the industry to follow the arrangements already being put into place, such as trade deals with the US and a Memorandum of Understanding with Russia.

Industry experts such as space entrepreneur Jeff Manber are highlighting the importance of bills being placed by the American Senate and deals being closed between entrepreneurs and existing space programs, such as Robert Bigelow’s with the Russians and Elon Musk’s with NASA.

Jeff Manber said, “The policy is lining up, the technology is lining up, so it’s really an exciting moment. The ingenuity of the private sector is finally breaking down the centralised government’s space programmes, so there is going to be competition, there is going to be hotels and there is going to be games in space.”

The industry is estimated to have a £7.5bn turnover with employment growing at 15%. If the government back the S-IGS and we have the entrepreneurialism required, Britain could diversify from the output of primarily satellites. With the private sector offering more than just your regular holiday on the ISS it is surely time for Britain’s manufacturers to benefit.

Steven Vermeiren