UK Space Conference Highlights Vibrant, Growing Industry

UK_space_agencySWINDON, England (UKSA PR) — From the latest developments in the world’s first air-breathing rocket engine to a revitalised strategy for the UK space sector, innovation and growth were the key words this week as leading figures from the space industry met at the UK Space Conference in Glasgow.

In his opening speech at the conference, Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts revealed further details of the Government’s £60 million [$91.5 million] investment in SABRE, an engine which could transform how we think about space and aviation.

Over the next four years, the Government’s money will be spent on four major elements of the SABRE engine development each of which is critical to realising the full production engine design at the end of the project:

  • the heart of the investment will be the SABRE engine technical design work
  • Improving the lightweight heat exchanger technology and manufacturing capability
  • wind tunnel and flight testing of SABRE engine components
  • and a significant part of the programme will be a ground demonstration of the engine

Speaking at the conference, David Willetts said:

“The space industry contributes over £9 billion to the economy every year and supports tens of thousands of highly skilled jobs. Yet if we are to meet our target of capturing ten per cent of a growing world market, then it is clear that we must turn away from doing only those things that we have done for the last thirty years, and harness new opportunities in new areas of space.”

Also announced at the conference were the initial outputs of the IGS Restack – a programme to revisit the objectives of the 2010 Space Innovation and Growth Strategy, identifying the key markets that must be addressed and determining further industry and government actions.

Initial findings have identified a need to accelerate investment in space infrastructure, services and applications that will engage with the broader economy and drive economic growth.

The IGS team has identified a number of specific actions including:

  • Stimulating a vibrant, regional, Space SME sector by improving the supply of finance, market information, skills and industry support
  • Creating a supportive regulatory environment for UK-based space companies and attract inward investment by promoting UK interests in overseas fora and reducing regulatory barriers to UK company growth
  • Increasing the UK’s return from international space projects

Other announcements at the conference included:

  • Space technology company Astrium has been awarded a contract worth up to €155.5 million [$237.3 million] to develop technology for next generation EUMETSAT weather satellites, as a direct result of UK investment in the European Space Agency (ESA), to be led by a team at the company’s Portsmouth site.
  • The appointment of Magali Vaissiere, currently ESA Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications, as the new Head of Centre for Oxfordshire-based ECSAT, the European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications.

British ESA astronaut Tim Peake was also on hand to talk about the business of being an astronaut and to award badges to a group of lucky scouts who have recently completed the UK Space Agency-sponsored Astronautics Badge.