Chairman of 'UKspace' calls for national space programme

'Vitally important for the construction of all our own national security, defence and communications capabilities'

Monday 22 July - A national space programme would not only pave the way for the UK to be a world leader in the global challenge resulting from 'climate change', it would ensure we have the means at home to build all our own national security, defence and communications capabilities without reliance on the EU or on potentially problematic foreign technology. 

In the UK, the satellite sector is already starting to show how we can drive down emissions from heavily-polluting transport, such as by smart routing of our shipping freight.

It is also advancing pollution management, potentially allowing doctors to predict spikes in dangerous respiratory conditions like asthma, which kills three people in the UK every day.

Already, the UK Space Agency’s ‘Space for Smarter Government’ Programme has demonstrated the feasibility of an 'Air Quality Hotspot Mapper' which could help the NHS manage the health fallout of poor air quality.

On a global level, we are using this expertise to monitor forests, rivers, lakes, oceans, volcanoes, deserts, coast lines, ice caps, atmospheric changes and conditions such as the El Nino climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean, which has a global impact on weather patterns.

Satellite technology can monitor crop health with data used to help increase food production by better targeting water and fertilisers. In the future, we should be able to assess whether countries are meeting carbon treaty commitments. 

With countries across the world increasingly hungry for these solutions, the worldwide market for them is vast and growing.

The big opportunity Britain has is to lead the way in using satellite technology. We already have a first class science base, world-leading universities and highly skilled technicians. 

The UK space industry is developing serious potential, having trebled in size in real terms since 2000. But if we want to take on this opportunity to be a global leader, then action is urgently needed to retain and build our space capability in the UK, via a new national space programme.

The EU’s recent decision to exclude British companies from involvement in the Galileo satellite navigation programme threatens to leave the UK space industry at a severe disadvantage.

UK firms will be overlooked for lucrative new global deals because they will no longer have access to the EU’s shared navigation system. Additional problems will arise if we leave the EU without a deal and are forced to stop collaborating on Copernicus, another EU earth observation programme.

The UK now needs to develop its home-grown sovereign capability in space even further.

It would mean a new industrial revolution right here in the UK, creating thousands of new green jobs spread across all our regions, while helping to deepen our trading relationships with partners outside Europe.

The moment for the Government to act is now. Politicians will soon have to answer questions about what happens next in the development of our technological capabilities once we are outside the EU. For the next prime minister, the space industry has many of the answers.

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