10 February 2017 News

UK pledges cash for commercial launch capabilities

Skylon - A British aircraft designed to reach orbit. Image credit: ESA
Skylon - A British aircraft designed to reach orbit. Image credit: ESA

The UK Space Agency has announced it has made grants worth £10 million available in a scheme designed to help develop commercial launch capability for spaceflight – a market that is worth an estimated £25 billion over the next 20 years.

The funding comes as the UK government released the timeline for new legislation which will promote and regulate commercial spaceflight. To help facilitate the government’s ambitions for the UK to hold a greater share of the commercial spaceflight market, interested parties have been asked to develop competitive, commercial and safe spaceflight proposals for UK-based satellite launch services and sub-orbital flights.

Businesses expected to bid for a share of the newly allocated funding are likely to be joint enterprises of launch vehicle operators and potential launch sites. Discussing the scheme, Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said, “spaceflight offers the UK the opportunity to build on our strengths in science, research and innovation. It provides opportunities to expand into new markets, creating highly-skilled jobs and boosting local economies across the country. That is why it is one of the key pillars of our Industrial Strategy.”

In order to establish a commercial spaceflight market and capture a share of the emerging global market, the funding must be used to develop spaceflight capabilities, such as adapting launch vehicle technology for use in the UK or building spaceport infrastructure.

“We want to see the UK space sector flourish, that is why we are laying the groundwork needed for business to be able to access this lucrative global market worth an estimated £25 billion over the next 20 years. The call for proposals I announced today, together with a new, dedicated Spaceflight Bill, will help make our space ambitions a reality,” added Johnson.

The UK Space Agency has also announced a competition for young people aged between 11 to 22 to win £10,000 by coming up with an idea on how to use satellite data to improve life on Earth.

The SatelLife Challenge is looking for inspirational ideas linking satellite and space data and its application to everyday life, such as looking at changes to green spaces in towns and cities or using satellite data to tackle loneliness amongst elderly people.

The judging panel will be made up of experts including representatives from the UK Space Agency, the European Space Agency, Catapult – a satellite company based in Harwell and others in the industry. Aimed at supporting the development of science, technological skills and data handling, the competition is split into three age groups, offering five prizes of £5,000 for each age category with an overall winner receiving £10,000.

For more information on the SatelLife Challenge, see here.

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