In the global space industry, is the UK on the verge of a breakthrough?


In 1969, to speak with President Nixon, a British engineer was invited to the White House. Francis Thomas Bacon was his name and he had created the fuel cells that were used on Apollo 11. For the success of the Apollo project, his technology was considered so significant that Nixon said to him, “Without you, Tom, we wouldn’t have gotten to the moon.” Bacon is one of many heroes in the history of space in Britain. After the USSR and the USA, Britain was the world’s third largest spacefaring country.

And several British space companies, including Inmarsat and Surrey Satellite Technology, were established in the years after Apollo, building upon the work of these early British space engineers. However, few can deem the United Kingdom a genuinely global space superpower over the last 50 years. While the UK has a great deal of expertise in the production and manufacture of satellites, it has less experience in launching them.

Since 1971, the UK has not launched its own satellite. Of the 2,600 satellites in orbit today, only 5% are registered in the U.K. But space has emerged over the past decade as one of the fastest-growing sectors in the U.K.

The industry has tripled in size since 2010. Today, almost 42,000 people are employed by the UK space industry and each year they produce £ 15 billion in revenue.

Satellite facilities, including telecommunications, metrology, Earth observation and navigation, produce more than £ 300 billion of the UK’s gross domestic product.1 The continued participation of the UK in the European Space Agency (ESA) will not be impacted by Brexit. Esa is not an agency within the EU.

The withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU, however, would have varying degrees of effect on UK involvement in European space programs. These include Galileo’s satellite navigation program, Copernicus Earth observation, and the EU space surveillance and tracking program. For those who wish to launch into orbit and beyond, the government wants the UK to be the most desirable location in Europe. The worldwide demand for small launches of satellites is worth around £ 400 billion. By 2030, the United Kingdom aims to gain a 10% share of this market, and it needs to be able to send its own satellites into space to do so. For this reason, the UK is investing in a range of spaceports across the world (similar to airports except for rockets).

Just recently, the government gave Lockheed Martin the green light to transfer its small satellite launch operations to the Shetland Space Centre on the island of Unst in Scotland. Its northern latitude offers convenient access to polar orbits, which are well suited for small satellites near Earth.

And, far from heavily populated areas, its remoteness makes launches over the sea. British engineers begin work on a comet-hunting probeRead moreShetland is not the only place in the UK. To see increased spaceflight spending.

In Cornwall and Sutherland, space centers are also being built. The government also announced the growth of new “space hubs” in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland this year. Both of these hubs will use government funding to pool the resources of local authorities and companies to establish a plan for how the commercial space race will help each city.

And the United Kingdom also hopes to build on its history of creativity in space with the ability to launch its own satellites into space at a lower cost. In 1941, author Isaac Asimov envisioned massive solar panels in space capable of catching the sun’s rays and beaming them back to Earth and the power grid. That had been fiction.

But last month, to understand what it would take to make space-based solar power a reality, the government commissioned new research. Technology (including lightweight solar panels and wireless power transmission) and economics (cheaper space launches) make it a possibility for the first time. Bacon’s fuel cells delivered a constant supply of energy, provided a continuous stream of hydrogen and oxygen.

Solar panels in space, where the sun never sets, make the possibility of a constant supply of renewable energy. These are an example of a possible breakthrough advancement on the road of the United Kingdom to the next


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