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UK To Reestablish Sovereign Space Capability

Britain will acquire a sovereign satellite network and develop cutting-edge space technology.

Credit: NASA Kennedy. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The UK Government has acquired a controlling stake in OneWeb, a company which designs and builds satellites in the UK. This will give the UK part of the toolset it needs to re-establish itself as a space-capable nation. The UK is the only country to have developed, but then lost, sovereign rocket launch capability after the cancellation of the Black Arrow project in 1971.

Credit: artq55. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The immense growth of the British space industry since 2010 shows that the UK’s presence in space is not only viable, but essential. The government will invest $500 million in OneWorld to build UK-owned and operated satellites for both commercial and government use. This will likely take the form of the UK’s sovereign satellite navigation system, after it was removed from the EU’s Galileo project.

Since 2010, the UK space sector has grown by 60%, now being worth £300 billion and contributing both research and resources to other organisations in the UK and around the world. One such company, Spacebit, plans to land the UK’s first rover on the moon in 2021. This would make the UK the fourth country to land and deploy a rover on the moon after the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.

Further development of the UK space industry could come in the form of a spaceport somewhere in the UK or the British-owned territories. This would allow British-built rockets to launch British-built satellites from British soil. Though only in its early stages, it shows an exciting vision for a more assertive, global, space-faring Britain.