Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Myopia and the Final Frontier

Britain's activity in space is hamstrung by a purely ESA/European focus is the conclusion of an important new study produced by the Economic Policy Centre. And it doesn't have to be this way.

Jim Bennett, who has previously popularised the concept of the Anglosphere is a long time expert on Space policy and private sector involvement in the same.

His paper essentially bemoans the way in which Britain's acknowledged expertiese in space technology underperforms by its almost complete depedence on the Euroepan Space Agency, and how with greater imagination our space industries would do so much better if we bothered to look to the US and more specifically the emerging space competitors of India, Australia nad the Commonwealth.

As he points out in his hiostorical overview Briatin left the Space race, hurt in the late 60s early 70s when Space was dominated by governmental projects, but has since developed a commercial space industry,

By cleverly exploiting its substantial resources in scientific research, finance, and technology, and by taking advantage of bilateral and multilateral cooperation, Britain has managed to create a substantial space sector without a large, highly visible space agency or a marquee space project.
Today, according to the latest figures from Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the UK space industry has an annual turnover of nearly £6 billion, employs 20,000 and is growing at around 9% per year. Much of this, some £5 billion is in the downstream sector which includes the operation of satellites and providers of space-enabled products and services which might for example involve the provision of emergency, defence or scientific information.
All this is good news, but could be much better if we in the UK took the initaitive and looked beyond the comfortable straightjacket of the ESA.
ESA is still the principal vector of cooperation for Britain, absorbing a little over 75% of Britain’s state space expenditures. Although it is reasonable to expect substantial UK participation in ESA in the future, the nature of New Space activity suggests that Britain should broaden its cooperative perspective.
It is transparent that Britain is involved with the ESA, and will continue to be so, but Bennett is clear that big national projects are not the way forward, which in these times of shrinking budgets is a good thing, but more in fields where we are already strong. His recomendations make a great deal of sense.

1. The UK should broaden its cooperative perspective beyond Europe - 75% of funds are currently allocated to the European Space Agency.
2. The new UKSA must seek to take advantage of NASA’s international cooperative programmes which the UK has failed to do in the past
3. The Commonwealth States – Australia, Canada and India – all have areas of space expertise which the UK could successfully cooperate on,
4. Therefore the UK should aim to cooperate with Canada which has expertise in
radar imaging satellites
5. And with Australia which has extensive launch ranges
6. As well as with India which has across the board capabilities including launch
vehicles, satellites and now interplanetary probes
7. The UKSA should send key personnel to Ottawa for an extended stay at the
Canadian Space Agency to study what a small-to-medium scale agency can
8. The UK should explore collaboration with Canada and Australia on dual-use (civil and military) space technologies and systems like communications and earth observations satellites to leverage UK defence investments in space and the high level of trust of the USA on technology-export issues
9. The UK should seek to learn and copy from the Isle of Man’s favourable
operating environment for space commerce
10. The UK should seek to develop a civil regulatory framework for spaceflight and
space activity that attracts capital from all round the world
11. The UK should seek to actively earn from the USA’s deep experience of licensing launch sites and spaceports with a view to the future licensing of sites like Lossiemouth in Scotland

No comments: