UK announces £50M satellite industry boost

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The UK Space Agency has announced a £50 million fund to boost the satellite communications industry.

Funding from the initiative will be used for projects including satellite constellations, ground systems, and entirely new end-to-end systems.

Science Minister George Freeman said:

“Developing UK space capabilities and maximising commercial opportunities are key to the National Space Strategy, as part of our plans to become a leading power in space and build on a sector already worth £16.5 billion to the UK economy.

We are determined to invest in our world-class satellite technology sector, which is why I committed £1.8 billion for UK participation in ESA programs over the next five years and recently committed £190 million specifically to participate in international telecommunications missions.

This latest £50 million UK Space Agency funding will help more companies into our vibrant fast growth UK space telecoms sector, helping drive both growth and wider UK economic resilience.”

The UK is home to some of the most talented minds and companies in the space industry, including the likes of Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Inmarsat, OneWeb, and GKN Aerospace.

More than 26,600 Brits work in the satellite communications industry and the sector contributes £10.4 billion to the economy. However, the UK has historically been held back by a lack of domestic launch capabilities.

Seven spaceports are due to begin operations in the UK over the coming years, offering a mix of horizontal and vertical launch capabilities. These will be based in Cornwall, Snowdonia, Prestwick, Sutherland, Argyll, Unst, and North Uist.

A launch by Virgin Orbit from Spaceport Cornwall earlier this month ended in failure.

Virgin Orbit successfully dropped a LauncherOne rocket over the Atlantic but an issue occurred during the second phase of the vehicle’s burn. The vehicle did not reach the required altitude to deposit its payload of nine satellites and was lost.

A second attempt by Virgin Orbit is expected to take place later this year. In the meantime, rival UK spaceports are vying to claim the title of the first successful orbital launch from British soil.

(Image Credit: Virgin Orbit)

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