The UK government has revealed how investing in the space industry will form a key part of its strategy for boosting economic growth.
At the heart of the government’s strategy is a pledge to invest £99 million to create a National Satellite Testing Facility (NSTF) and another £4 million investment for a new National Space Propulsion Facility (NSPF).
The UK government hopeS the significant funding boost will enable the space industry to competitively bid for more national and international contracts and ensure it remains a world-leader for space technologies for decades to come.
“From Cornwall to the Highlands and islands of Scotland, the UK space sector underpins industries worth more than £250 billion to the UK economy, and through our Industrial Strategy we will unlock the sector’s potential to grow further,” said Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson.
“Located in a cluster known for research excellence, these new facilities will help UK companies be more competitive in the global market for space technology and support our ambition to capture 10% of the global space market by 2030.”
Due to open in early 2020, the new NSTF is described as a “world-class facility” for the assembly, integration and testing of space instruments and satellites.
By investing in the NSTF, the UK government believes it will be able to capitalise on the estimated 3,500 to 10,000 satellites that are due to be launched by 2025.
The UK government’s investment will also facilitate the build of bigger and more technologically advanced satellites and remove the need for UK companies to use test facilities located abroad.
“This investment will enhance the capability of the UK space industry,” said Dr Graham Turnock, chief executive of the UK Space Agency.
“Having access to a National Satellite Testing Facility will help companies develop and encourage new business to come the UK, while the development of new facilities at Westcott builds on what is already a world-class UK space propulsion sector.”
The £4 million investment in the NSPF will allow companies and academia to test and develop space propulsion engines, alongside a new facility for Reaction Engines where the revolutionary SABRE air-breathing rocket engine will also be tested and built.
SABRE – Synergetic Air Breathing Rocket Engine – is a new class of engine for propelling both high speed aircraft and spacecraft.
Unlike jet engines, which are only capable of powering a vehicle up to Mach 3, three times the speed of sound, SABRE engines are capable of Mach 5.4 in air-breathing mode, and Mach 25 in rocket mode for space flight.
On its website, Sabre’s creators, Reaction Engines, says it aims to test a fully integrated engine core at the NSPF test site in 2020, which is the crucial step towards a SABRE powered flight test vehicle.