The first all-British radar satellite launched recently, and Britain’s very first spaceport is due for completion by 2020 – the UK’s space industry is flourishing. But is it ready for commercial investments? The government has set out its intentions to secure 10% of the world’s space market over the next 12 years. This will hold an approximate value of £40 billion, which is triple today’s size.
A growing sector
The global space market is expanding rapidly, driven primarily by increasing demand for small satellites in recent years. The data they collect and transmit to Earth is being used in all manner of ways, making the whole industry an increasingly valuable commodity. Estimations from the UK Space Agency suggest that as much as 40% of all small satellite systems in orbit were built in Britain. Our manufacturing strength is opening the door to entrepreneurial private operators in the UK. With Brexit forcing the UK out of access to the EU’s Galileo Navigation Satellite System, there is further impetus for Britain to invest more in satellite manufacturing.
Obstacles to success
Despite this significant momentum and the growing potential for investment in the industry, there are still challenges ahead for a ‘British Space Age’. Manufacturing capacity is still lacking in comparison to the demand for small satellite parts/services, which could prevent costs from dropping. The UK industry has a solid reputation for high-quality manufacturing; a factor that needs to be balanced with increasing scale and speed demands in the market.
Prosperity for the UK?
If the UK is to strengthen its market share, it will need to expand its manufacturing capability and access rocket engine technology. A great example of a company with tremendous potential for investment is Orbex, which has developed an innovative launcher technology using British-built parts/equipment using bio-propane as a propellant. This will reduce carbon emissions, making it a particularly appealing prospect for the future.
The UK space industry is in exciting times, both for newcomers and those that have already established their reputation in the market. With sufficient commercial investment and a favourable outcome from Brexit, the government’s ambitions for expansion in the sector could become a prosperous part of the savvy investor’s portfolio.