The UK Space Agency, the relatively new ‘muscular’ agency, just a few years old, is setting the pace when it comes to showing how governments can enable growth in the space sector. Below is the updated report from the agency which sets out clear goals for growth. But what does it say about their UK strategy as a whole.
With this extra impetus, energy and success will come greater scrutiny. One area of note appears to be the lack of any connection between this strategy and the so called Northern Powerhouse. While Wales launched it’s own space strategy plans at the UK Space Conference last month, Scotland was also very prominent; Scotland contains 5 of the 7 sites shortlisted for a UK spaceport, and is the home to the very successful Clyde Space company, expected to turnover at least £20 million over the next 3 years. But what of England itself? I’m willing to bet that even thought the conference took place in Liverpool, that there was barely any representation between Birmingham and Glasgow.
What has become of Liverpool’s own proposals for a spaceport? Their plans, despite having the advantage of infrastructure, coastal location and potentially big backers, was thrown out early in the process. In terms of re-balancing the economy, why are all the facilities relating to UK space development sited in the south of the UK? The ESA facility, partly a result of a £60 million annual increase in funding for ESA from the UK and the satellite Catapult – but what of the North, with it’s successful Universities’ science departments such as Manchester. Yes, there’s graphene, but it looks like there’s a big focus on the south of the country when it comes to space investment.
What’s become of the Liverpool spaceport bid now? An extract from the government’s report on spaceport locations reads
“The Government is not convinced that the other locations proposed by respondents are likely to be viable propositions for sub-orbital spaceplane operations. However, this does not preclude other locations submitting a detailed proposal if they believe they can fulfil the requirements in the technical specification.”
If the UK is only interested in spaceplanes and not rockets, then it seems we’re not very interested in putting satellites in space anymore, which is a shame because that’s the area of space the UK currently excels in, and where government funding is greatest. Still, it seems it’s still open for Liverpool if they’re interested in the long game. They still seem to have an active website http://lplspaceport.co.uk/, but without any named members of the team supporting it. Are we really going to have to go to have to struggle through the terrible roads leading to the tip of Cornwall, or the edge of Scotland to reach Spaceport UK, or can we connect to it by plane and train to the west coast of England, with the huge economic benefits if would bring that region…come on George Osborne, take notice.