UK space sector receives £multi-million boost

Posted on 10 Feb 2017 by Jonny Williamson

Science Minister Jo Johnson has announced that grants worth up to £10m are being made available to help develop commercial launch capability for spaceflight and stimulate the commercial spaceflight market.

The Spaceport will enable take-off and landing of reusable space vehicles, such as Skylon and Virgin Galactic - UK Space Sector
The global commercial spaceflight market is expected to be worth an estimated £25bn over the next 20 years – image courtesy of UK Space Agency.

The government’s ambitions for the UK to hold a greater share of the commercial spaceflight market, worth an estimated £25bn over the next 20 years, took a step forward with a call for businesses to develop competitive, commercial and safe spaceflight proposals for UK-based satellite launch services and sub-orbital flights.

Organisations expected to bid for a share of the funding are likely to be joint enterprises of launch vehicle operators and potential launch sites. The funding must be used to develop spaceflight capabilities, such as building spaceport infrastructure or adapting launch vehicle technology for use in the UK. The aim is to establish a commercial spaceflight market to capture a share of the emerging global market from 2020.

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson explained: “Spaceflight offers the UK the opportunity to build on our strengths in science, research and innovation. It provides opportunities to expand into new markets, creating highly-skilled jobs and boosting local economies across the country. That is why it is one of the key pillars of our Industrial Strategy.”

The government has also announced that it is preparing legislation to develop a safe and competitive regulatory environment for spaceflight. This work goes hand-in-hand with government’s work internationally to achieve the technical, trade and policy agreements necessary for UK-based launch services and developing interest from launch customers and operators from around the world.

According to government guidelines:

  1. Proposals must be submitted to the UK Space Agency, in accordance with the guidance set out in the call notice by 15 April, 2017
  2. Proposals must be submitted by joint enterprises, consisting of at least one potential UK spaceport and one small-satellite launch or sub-orbital flight operator.
  3. This initial call is focused on establishing the commercial spaceflight market in the UK by potentially providing grant funding to the most feasible proposals, and is not a prize. The UK Space Agency will continue to offer support and advice to all potential UK spaceports and operators, regardless of the outcome.