In the final edition of our 2019 quarterly series, UKspace looks back on a very significant and busy last three months of the decade, highlighting some of the key activities coming out of the UK space sector.
The final quarter of 2019 began with World Space Week, during which the UK Space Agency (UKSA) published three new reports about the benefits and effectiveness of the International Partnership Programme, which helps improve life chances of people around the world, as well as boosting the UK economy.
A week later, at the opening of Parliament on 14 October 2019 – in the first of two Queen’s Speeches in the space of 10 weeks – the Monarch announced Government plans for the space sector in a new National Infrastructure Strategy. This would “boost our space programme with a UK Space Strategy”, she said, as part of plans to establish the UK as a “world-leader in scientific capability and space technology. Increased investment in science will be complemented by the development of a new funding agency, a more open visa system, and an ambitious national space strategy.”
It was also announced that ESA and Airbus Defence and Space would be using the Bartolomeo external platform for a limited number of scientific missions on the International Space Station.
The most significant news of November was UKSA’s announcement at the ESA Ministerial meeting that it will invest £374 million per year in ESA, helping deliver international space programmes over the next five years and maintaining the UK’s position as a space and science superpower.
This coincided with the publication of UKspace’s 2020 Manifesto which made five key policy recommendations in advance of the general election.
During the month, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority launched its Space Data Challenge to find satellite-enabled technologies that could help support the UK’s nuclear decommissioning efforts.
Climate Change was also on the agenda as UKSA announced a partnership with Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, to use space technology to help Pacific island countries plan for and prevent natural disasters.
Surrey Space Technology Ltd (SSTL) shipped a Target satellite to Tokyo for the End-of-Life Services by Astroscale demonstration mission, ahead of launch in 2020, while SSTL also signed an agreement with Republic of the Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology-Advanced Science and Technology Institute to provide a share of the tasking and data acquisition services from NovaSAR-1.
Elsewhere, Airbus celebrated 50 years of providing global secure military satellite communications to the UK Ministry of Defence and Inmarsat confirmed the successful launch of its GX5 next generation satellite.
While election fever swept the nation, the final month of the year (and decade) began with UKspace welcoming more than 300 guests to its annual reception at Lancaster House.
This was followed by RHEATECH Ltd announcing plans to develop an advanced overarching design for ESA’s growing Space Weather Service System, and OneWeb advancing plans for its Responsible Space Program. SSTL appointed Phil Brownnett as Managing Director, taking over from Sara Parker in the new year.
Following the formation of a new Conservative Government, the Queen’s Speech on 19 December provided continued momentum on the space agenda and the Government’s commitment to the sector. It said: “The Cabinet-level National Space Council will help put space at the heart of Government policy and help us deliver a UK Space Strategy. The Space Strategy will boost future funding and lead to a dedicated innovation programme to support future space exploration and exploitation of technology developments by funding cutting-edge British innovation in artificial intelligence, robotics and satellites.”
The year ended with former UKspace President, Andy Green, being awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2020 New Year Honours list, and the announcement of a new satellite data centre – involving Edinburgh and Leeds Universities – using cutting-edge satellite technology to help combat climate change.