The British government unveiled a much-anticipated space policy on September 27 that details its aspirations to transform the nation into a significant global space power. Still, it does away with a fundamental criterion for measuring progress.
Growing the UK’s space industry, promoting its principles of an “open and stable international order” in space, promoting research and innovation, safeguarding national interests, and exploiting space for national and global concerns like climate change are all part of the National Space Strategy.
Growing the UK space sector, boosting global cooperation, becoming a scientific and technology “superpower,” and establishing resilient space resources and services are the four pillars that support these goals.
“At the core of this strategic plan, we acknowledge and explicitly state that we perceive this as part of an international race for new space economy, as well as the United Kingdom has some very strong positive aspects that we want to play to,” George Freeman, the UK government’s science minister, said during a keynote at the U.K. Space Conference on September 27.
Despite Britain’s exit from the European Union, he underlined the importance of partnership, including with Europe. “We will only be able to harness the full possibilities of this wonderful sector through international partnership, which begins here in Europe.” he stated that this would be done mainly through the European Space Agency (ESA), as well as “several other activities” with Europe.
The United Kingdom’s role in the Copernicus project of the Earth observation satellites, which is a joint initiative of ESA and the European Union, is one near-term problem for such collaboration. The final Brexit agreement signed in December allows the United Kingdom to participate in the process. Still, the European and British governments have yet to reach an agreement on how that participation will be governed.
He stated, “The United Kingdom may have left the European political alliance, but we are not abandoning the European scientific, cultural, or research community.” “We want to ensure that, following our exit from the EU, we become an even more powerful role in the research community.” He called Copernicus an “essential” aspect of that approach, but he didn’t say when a deal controlling British involvement in the project would be finalized.
The strategy also made no mention of government funding for programs that would help achieve those goals. According to Freeman, a governmentwide expenditure review will be released in October, which will provide more data. “Let me guarantee you,” he continued, “we wouldn’t be launching this plan now unless we were 100 percent committed to it.”
The strategy comprises ten “priority areas” that the British government claims represent the “greatest impact prospects” where resources will be concentrated. Smallsat launches, space sustainability, and the use of space technology to upgrade transportation networks are among the topics covered.