There have been two recent interesting developments in the space industry. The first is the arrival onto the world stage of Space Ship 2, which will be taking those willing to stump up £120,000 above all three cloud layers for a glimpse of the Earth’s curve and the feeling of weightlessness before returning to the ground. Virgin Galactic’s baby (presently under the scrutiny of the US security forces due to backing from the middle east) represents the first foot in the door of private sector space experiences.
The second development was the announcement of a British Space Agency to promote UK space science and replace the British National Space Centre, a consortium of research councils and government departments that presently coordinates UK space science and engineering. Whilst the announcement has been welcomed, there are concerns about the practicalities. STFC has moved to try and impose its present structure on space science within the new agency (apparently “it works” despite an apparently unexpected but entirely predictable £40 million shortfall for the second time in three years and international disgrace within twelve months of founding), and voices within the space industry are concerned about politicisation of the agency from one side or the other in the impending election campaign as well as dangers of the funding vanishing as the Treasury claws back the national debt. A British space agency would put us on a par with Russia, China, India, France, Canada and the USA, all of which have their own agencies.
But the announcement did focus attention on one thing, which was the £6.5 billion the UK space industry puts into the economy, compared to the £270 million spent on it (mostly – £180 million – going to ESA, the European Space Agency). The Times ran a special on the industry, including articles on an overview of the industry (or two), a link to a pdf on Lloyd’s predictions for the sector in 2010, a focus on satellite communication, an interview with the head of EADS Astrium and a comment by Colin Pillinger on why the sector should receive additional investment.
Something to remember as there appears to be a flurry of tweets on twitter about impending STFC cuts announcements…
(I keep my thoughts on that on the rolling coverage post here)