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Robin Moss

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Catapult Set to Revolutionise the UK Space Industry

Posted: 17/08/2012 00:00

The UK space industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country, contributing £9.1bn annually to the UK economy and supporting thousands of high-tech jobs in the UK. Since I was a kid I dreamed of working in the sector. I studied astronautical engineering at Kingston University and then accepted a position at Logica on the graduate programme in 2010 as a graduate developer.

When people ask me what I do and I tell them, they immediately ask, "Do you get to do the cool stuff then?" The truth is, yes. I'm currently working with the European Space Agency (ESA), to provide the ground systems for the Galileo Satellite Navigation Programme. For over 25 years, since the first European weather satellites, Europe's meteorologists have relied on Logica software to extract weather information from satellite images.

The space industry isn't just about rockets and satellites. We are more reliant than ever on space technology to live our lives. We interact with space technology when we watch satellite TV, when we consult the weather forecast, when we pick up the phone to call someone, when we use web mapping service applications or when we check our in-car navigation system for routing information. Things are set to get a whole lot cooler too with space tourism set to take off with the first tourist flight into space next year. Virgin Galactic has so far received more than £64m in deposits from 520 customers worldwide that want to experience space.

A joined-up team of industry, government and academia have paved the way for the industry to be a success. As part of the National Space Technology Programme, the Government has granted nearly £6 million to co-fund major new British research that will develop commercial products and services using technology and data from space-based systems. The funding, from the UK Space Agency and the Technology Strategy Board, will support four major research and development consortium projects. The total value of the research and development, including contributions from the participating companies, is over £11.5 million.

The Technology Strategy Board is making fast progress in creating a world-leading Catapult centre to transform the UK's capability for innovation in the space sector. It aims to grow the UK share of the global space market by creating 100,000 new jobs and achieving a £40bn turnover by 2030. The UK is unable to outspend the other nations so we have to be smart and make the best use of all capabilities. Greater cooperation with like-minded organisations will widen the skill base and open up market opportunities.

The UK space industry is a well hidden success story. Like other nations, the UK is targeting space as a high-growth sector. More competition than ever is coming from Brazil, China, India and South Korea, which all have government-subsidised space programmes.

Space commerce in Britain may be less centrally funded than in America and elsewhere, but that doesn't mean it is any less influential. The UK is leading on innovation and with the backing from government, local businesses and academia, it will enable the development, commercialisation and exploitation of space technologies to address broader challenges and growth opportunities across a number of markets, not just space.

 
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