Athena, the UK’s new national space team has published its suggestions for a roadmap to lead the UK space sector to a world class position.

The Athena team, made up of Serco, Inmarsat, CGI UK and Lockheed Martin UK, published the report which outlines a new approach to space for UK supported by Bryce Space and Technology. The suggested roadmap reports on the technological, economic and industrial benefits and growth from having a world class space sector would create.

Athena, a strategic partner of the Defence Space Conference which is taking place today, argues that now is the right time to propel the country towards an ambitious, achievable goal of becoming a respected space-faring nation, by galvanising the UK’s civilian and defence communities. The report is available here.

UK at “critical point” for space aspirations

Athena – which represents an end-to-end, sovereign, UK-based approach to space services – believes that the United Kingdom has reached a pivotal moment in its space aspirations. The report states that the UK is currently trailing behind nations such as France and Japan, who are considered robust space powers due to the depth and sophistication of their space capabilities, which are put to use in pursuit of a clearly defined national strategy and the resulting widely-recognised economic, technical, societal and security benefits.

Chris Rocks, Capability Director Space and Security at Serco, said: “The UK is at a critical point and the time to step forward and become a leading space nation is now. The UK Government is taking steps towards achieving this aim with the formation of the National Space Council and its forthcoming National Space Strategy. Industry also needs to play its part and it is in this spirit of cooperation that Athena has published this report to set out a proposed roadmap to success with emphasis on key focus areas that can deliver the most benefit to the UK to make its space ambitions into reality.”

The report, called A New Approach to Space, recommends seven key areas of focus for the UK to 2030:

  • Integrate military and civil space operations into a National Space Operations Centre to jointly operate key national infrastructure and maximise data sharing
  • Invest in satellite communications to deliver a secure platform for military and government
  • Develop a sovereign space-based Positioning, Navigation and Timing capability to address urgent national requirements and to enable burden sharing with key allies
  • Establish satellite launch operations from the UK
  • Invest in research and development and create a National Space Academy to nurture STEM talent and develop a career pathway into space
  • Increase contribution to space domain awareness
  • Participate in the European Space Agency Copernicus Programme and further support earth observation activity with additional UK programmes

The report identifies a set of principles and enablers to achieve these goals, including effective regulation and licensing, public awareness-raising, and the development of a diverse supply chain. Activity should be driven by the development of a National Space Strategy, the report recommends.

UK reliant on space technologies

Space, and its associated capabilities, are strategically vital to civil, commercial, security and defence policy ends. As a nation, the UK is wholly reliant on space technologies for everyday activities such as satnav for commuting, through to precision timing for banking, global navigation services for shipping and earth observation services for weather forecasting. It has been estimated that the loss of global navigation satellite system services alone would cost the UK economy in excess of £1 billion per day.

Athena, launched in May 2020, was formed to seize development opportunities that new space technologies will offer, driving economic growth for the UK and diversification across the British space sector. The combined capabilities and technologies available to Athena will enhance further the country’s ability to deliver the UK’s ‘Prosperity and Security in Space’ strategy, which aims to increase the value of space to wider industrial activities to £500 billion, generate an extra £5 billion in UK exports and attract £3 billion of additional inward investment.

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