UK Announces Space Industry Plans for Next Decade

Could the UK become a space superpower? The foundation has been laid for the UK space industry to flourish in the next decades, and it may well be a British rocket company that launches the first mission from European soil.

The United Kingdom is one of the biggest players in the global aerospace industry, with the second largest market in the world behind the United States. A value of $45 billion amounts to 17% of the world market share and 90% of British aerospace production ends up being exported. However, Britain’s presence in the space industry hasn’t yet managed to reach such lofty heights, as the country lags far behind bigger players in the United States and other countries. The good news is that this could be changing in the future, thanks to efforts by the government to stimulate the UK space industry and support for the many space startups beginning to flourish around the country.

UK Space Industry Forecasts

In 2019, the country’s commercial space sector managed a turnover worth $18.7 billion. Government and industry leaders believe that, with the right push, the country could account for 10% of the global space industry by 2030. To achieve this, an intense and sustained period of investment will be required. The space industry requires considerably more research and development before products and services can be brought to market than the average sector. The UK space industry may have a head start, however. Today, Britain is a world leader in producing small satellites and nanosatellites. The strongest contribution to the space market comes from space applications, followed up by manufacture and operations. With government funding and venture capital increased, the UK space industry can begin a sustained program of expansion.

Space revenue in the modern market is mostly derived from satellite technology. These small satellites are mostly used to enable large-scale communication networks and geospatial monitoring. In June of last year, Britain and America both signed a Technology Standards Agreement (TSA). This is intended to help facilitate the UK’s import market, allowing for the necessary technologies to support larger operations to enter the country. Eventually, this may result in the country enjoying a greater commercial capacity for space industry development in the future.

Rocket Company Space Innovations Predicted in Next Decade

The development model for the small rocket company will help set the standard for the industry moving forward. It’s unlikely that a major rocket company will emerge in the next decade to match the scale of some of the commercial operators across the Atlantic. However, space startups with an agile commercial model will be able to fill gaps for more versatile space solutions.

A UK aerospace company that operates a smaller scale launch craft won’t be able to achieve the same cost-to-weight ratio as the rockets used by larger commercial space firms. However, clients will be attracted to shorter launch schedules with fewer delays and development costs reduced by 3D printing technologies. They are also likely to enjoy more choice about exactly where their payloads will launch and at what level of Earth’s orbit they will be deployed. These are likely to provide convincing USPs to commercial clients, who will pay a premium to have more access to space on their own terms.

A New Space Race in Europe?

A rocket has not yet been launched from Britain, but then, no other country in continental Europe has managed this achievement either. A space race is starting to emerge among the space startups, to some extent fuelled by funding from the European Space Agency. The agency is looking to leverage the power of commercial space companies to help it achieve its biggest projects. This cooperation of private space companies and traditional agencies has already proved highly fruitful in the United States, as NASA has solicited services from large players in the industry. One US rocket company has even been certified by NASA to transport astronauts to the International Space Station. In the past, it has utilized these companies for transporting supplies and equipment, so the decision to entrust a rocket company with the lives of astronauts is a major milestone.


Already, the infrastructure necessary for an expansion of the UK space industry is on the road to completion. Spaceports are planned for construction in Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall that will allow for the launch of small satellites from British soil. In the long term, these facilities could be used to facilitate space tourism flights when the technology becomes more feasible. The UK space industry is well-positioned to take advantage of future changes in the market. British entrepreneurship and engineering talent are already committed to the startup model and will help drive space innovations across the sector.

Final Thoughts

With the right approach and government support, the UK space industry has the potential to become a major player on the world stage. The global space market is growing at a rapid rate, and projections suggest it won’t be shrinking at any foreseeable point in the future. The United Kingdom is entitled to occupy a prime position that can bring the exports of British space innovations to parity with the rest of the country’s technological exports. Where do you see the UK space industry developing in the next decade? Let us know in the comments section below.

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