Opinion: IoD view on future of the UK space industry

Tim Peak in the ISS, UK space agency

In response to Director‘s interview with Graham Turnock, the chief exec of the UK Space Agency, Dan Lewis, the IoD’s senior adviser on infrastructure policy, gives his view on the future of this burgeoning industry

Dan Lewis on UK broadband infrastructureYou can’t help but love the UK’s £14bn space industry. Growing at eight per cent a year for the past decade, it has consistently been the fastest-expanding sector of the whole economy. And of which other industry can you honestly say that “the sky is emphatically not the limit”?

As the first British business organisation to recognise the economic importance of space, the IoD was a trailblazer. Back in 2012 the institute’s Space: Britain’s New Infrastructure Frontier report called for an enabling regulatory regime for spaceflight and the designation of a spaceport. We now have the former: spaceplanes operating from the UK in the near future will have the legal freedom to operate as experimental craft. Unlike aircraft, which have a 120-year history of experimentation, there is enormous variation between prospective suborbital spaceplanes. Air-launched, horizontal or vertical take-off and landing, manned and unmanned – no one yet knows which type will work best.

The government has a shortlist of potential spaceport sites, but there won’t be a decision on which one until operators with working spacecraft are ready to proceed. That should no longer be an issue by the early 2020s. The best candidates – which are a good strategic fit, relatively free of air traffic and close to the sea for safety – are at Newquay in Cornwall and Llanbedr in Gwynedd. There are also a couple of sites with high potential in Scotland.

The UK has huge European first-mover potential in low-cost access to space for a number of purposes. The only way is up.

Visit iod.com/policyvoice to have your say

About author

Dan Lewis

Dan Lewis

Dan Lewis has been working with the IoD since 2011 on Energy Policy. Since March 2014, his brief has been expanded more broadly to include Infrastructure. Incorporating energy as well as roads, railways, airports, ports, utilities, telecommunications, flood defences, waste and local amenities. His role is to meet and engage with the business community on infrastructure and energy issues, develop and write policy papers and contribute to the media on behalf of the IoD.

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