Press Release

UK Secures £1.2 Billion Package Of Space Investment

By SpaceRef Editor
November 21, 2012
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The UK Space Agency is set to invest £1.2 billion in some of Europe’s biggest and most lucrative space projects, providing the UK with increased leadership in a rapidly growing global sector and building on the British space industry’s £9.1 billion contribution to the economy.

From satellite communications to Mars rovers and nuclear space batteries to weather satellites, the direction of Britain’s investment in European space projects was decided today as the Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, finalised negotiations for the UK at the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Ministerial Council in Naples.

The outcome of the negotiations will strengthen the UK role in a number of areas, including telecommunications and Earth observation satellites. It will also secure around £1 billion of orders per year for British businesses and lay the foundations for the UK to deliver its ambition to have a £30 billion space industry by 2030.

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said:

“Space is big business for the UK so it is important for us to make strategic investments that will continue the growth of this thriving industry. The programme of investment we’ve negotiated at ESA will not only allow us to get ahead in the global race by securing more major contracts for UK industry, but will also provide us with the tools to manage major challenges like disaster relief and climate change.”

The UK’s investment of around £240 million per year over the next five years will be split between ESA’s mandatory programme, which all member states must commit to, and 10 other programmes, including a one-off contribution to the International Space Station as part of the negotiations on the Orion Mutli-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV).

The UK’s increased investment in ESA will ensure the UK plays a lead role in frontier scientific research concerning the Solar System, the Sun and the universe beyond. It will also allow us to deliver indisputably world-class science whilst providing growth for the UK economy and benefiting society at large.

The optional programmes, including the UK’s contribution to the International Space Station, have been selected to maximise the economic growth to the UK, bring significant business to UK industry through future orders and create a stronger industry able to sell more abroad. It will also enable us to lead on economic services development, aspects of robotic exploration such as space nuclear power and robotics and climate studies using space data.

The UK space sector expects significant returns from the new plan of investment. Industry has already identified projects to the value of £1 billion that should follow from the additional funding.

In addition to the funding for the International Space Station, the UK’s new package of investment with ESA includes:

* New £16 million investment in the International Space Station

The UK’s one-off contribution of £16 million to the European Space Agency’s participation in the International Space Station will be focused on telecommunications and propulsion technology to be integrated into the new Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) called Orion. UK industry has an established capacity to deliver these key technologies, and the UK Space Agency has seized the opportunity presented in negotiations to secure the possibility of long-term industrial return for the UK.

This investment will help UK industry to diversify its industrial technical capabilities, and to achieve the long-term ambition of capturing 10 per cent of the global market.

* Major increase to investment in telecommunications

Satellite telecommunications is at the heart of the UK space industry, with the previous round of Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) generating £750 million of private investment and sales. By the end of 2013, every UK satellite TV channel will be delivered via UK-built spacecraft. Future opportunities include using satellites for air traffic control and monitoring of shipping security via satellite and novel commercial applications that fuse data from multiple sources. Hand in hand with a UK investment of £161 million in ARTES, a 60 per cent increase in UK funding, ESA has committed to developing its presence at Harwell in Oxfordshire, creating over 100 new high-tech jobs.

* £81 million for weather satellite Metop 2G

The UK Space Agency will invest £81 million in Metop 2G to secure a 12.5 per cent share of the total programme. Metop will replace the current satellites fundamental to the Met Office’s service to the public, business and Government. This investment will allow UK industry to play a key role in developing the prototype satellite and guarantee repeat orders from European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), generating an assured multiplier for the UK economy. In 2008, the UK did not invest in the Meteosat programme, and so this investment in Metop 2G represents a significant new opportunity for the UK industrial capability.

* £166 million for the Earth Observation Envelope Programme (EOEP)

With an investment of £166 million, the UK Space Agency has once again secured a strong role in this Earth observation programme which has previously delivered significant scientific and industrial benefit to the UK. The backbone of ESA activities in the field of Earth observation, EOEP is a powerful tool for scrutinizing how our fragile home world has been changing over time, and this investment is consistent with previous UK commitments.

* £26 million for Global Monitoring of the Environment and Security (GMES)

The UK has agreed to invest £25.9 million in this programme to develop long term, reliable Earth observation data sets. In earlier phases, significant funding was forthcoming from the EU and is also anticipated for the next phase leading to a major European asset. UK industry is already building space technology for the programme but more significant will be the impact on both public policy (natural disasters, climate change, food and energy security) and the development of commercial applications of the data through the Harwell space cluster.

* Investment of £18 million in the European GNSS Evolution Programme (EGEP)

This optional technology programme represents a high-value return on investment, targeted at preparing for future generations of European navigation satellites, offering reduced costs and higher performance over the current Galileo satellite platforms. The UK is involved in building all of the current 22 satellites and – through EGEP – can maintain its competitive edge when the EU takes over full responsibility and funding in 2014. This contribution is nearly four times the contribution from 2008.

* £18 million for Mars Robotic Exploration Preparation Programme

This investment of £18.4 million in this optional technology programme will see the UK take the leadership in developing nuclear power sources for space missions in synergy with the future civil nuclear power programme at NNL Sellafield. This complements the work on future international missions to succeed the current Exomars mission, and could potentially demonstrate strong spin-out technology in the terrestrial economy.

* UK to join the European Life and Physical Sciences Programme (ELIPS)

The UK Space Agency will invest £12.4 million in this long-running programme to exploit the unique environment of space for fundamental and applied science in health, biology, materials and physics. Benefits of joining this programme include insights into the human ageing process and new lightweight materials for jet engines.

* £28 million for Generic Support Technology Programme (GSTP)

In a dramatic ramp-up in early technology investment, the £28 million committed by the UK to the GSTP programme will help keep UK industry ahead of the pack in competing for tomorrow’s opportunities.

Taking early phase space technology research and development across the ‘valley of death’ into practical application, this programme is particularly important for SMEs and equipment suppliers who can work with European partners and benefit from the recognised quality of ESA technical management. The programme goals extend to offering opportunities for flight demonstration, thus overcoming a key barrier to commercial take-up.

* £6 million for Space Situational Awareness (SSA)

The £5.6 million investment in this programme will allow the UK to be involved in further developing a means to monitor and mitigate hazards caused by space weather and space debris. Risks include loss of vulnerable power and communications networks due to society’s reliance on electronic systems.

Dr David Williams, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said,

“With the majority of the UK’s investment in space being spent through ESA programmes, a robust plan of investment for ESA is pivotal to the UK space industry. Thanks to the Government’s increased funding, we were able to enter the negotiations with the funds to match our vision and will now be able to continue programmes that will reinforce the continuing growth in a sector that now contributes over £9 billion to the UK economy.”

Notes to editors:

1. The European Space Agency (ESA) Ministerial Council is a two-day meeting that takes place every four years to reach key decisions on European space programmes and activities for the future.

2. The UK has secured a settlement of flat-cash for existing ESA space science programme contributions that will be supplemented by new contributions from new ESA member states Poland and Romania.

3. The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) is based on the Orion design requirements for astronauts travelling beyond low Earth orbit, including missions in line with the International Space Exploration Coordination Group’s roadmaps. Orion will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry the crew to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during the space travel, and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. Orion will be capable of conducting regular in-space operations (such as rendezvous, docking, extra-vehicular activity) as part of these missions. MPCV will also provide the capability to be a backup system for International Space Station cargo and crew delivery.

4. Intervention, 20 November 2012 – NOT CHECKED AGAINST DELIVERY

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science

* Good morning Chairmen, fellow Ministers, delegates and observers.

* We are celebrating 50 years of the UK in space in 2012. The first satellite designed and run by British scientists, Ariel-1, was launched from Cape Canaveral on 26 April 1962. Three months later, it was disabled by an American atmospheric nuclear test. Our American friends launched it for us; and then blew it up; it is sometimes called ‘The Special Relationship.’

* Today, the British Government recognises the importance of space. My colleague, the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave an excellent speech last week that identified space technology as one of eight key technologies that we will support and develop.

* Space has become increasingly important to Britain over the last 50 years. Space systems play a crucial role in our society, as driving scientific endeavour, supporting of public policies such as disaster monitoring and driving economic growth. We have been strategic in selecting the targets of our ESA spend.

* Our cars, planes, tractors and trains are already navigating by the constellations that we have created. Live transmissions of news and sports come to us via satellite telecommunications from all around the world, and satellite bring high-speed access to the Internet to rural communities in the UK, while also providing enormous export opportunities.

* The UK space sector already generates £9 billion a year for the economy, and has grown at over eight percent per year through the recession. The UK Space Agency continues to support those companies who are seeking to make the most of the opportunities that space provides.

* Indeed I can inform the Council that, subject to satisfactory negotiations and including existing commitments, the UK intend to increase contributions to ESA by approximately 25 per cent to around O300 million a year over the next five years. We will focus on high-value scientific and industrial programmes.

* We have hitherto been active in three major science programmes and now intend to join the fourth, ELIPS, as well.

* We are strong supporters of the ExoMars programme. The European Mars rover vehicle, due to land in 2018, is intended to be autonomous and is most of the technology is British. We expect these technologies to spin out into other areas, such as autonomous vehicles.

* We are also finding new and innovative ways to use the data generated by space programmes. Capturing analysing and using satellite data will drive future scientific discovery and will lead to the development of new services that will boost growth. Satellite data is also essential in understanding how our planet works and how it is changing.

* That is why the UK has invested heavily in the Harwell space cluster, near Oxford. Harwell brings together researchers and industry in an open research forum. This mix of creative interactions and entrepreneurial start-ups are what drive innovation and new market developments.

* I have long regretted not having a major ESA presence in the UK. And I am now pleased that ESA are substantially increasing its activity at Harwell. By advancing the Harwell space cluster, we intend to create one of the most exciting environments for innovation in Europe.

* We are also committed to engaging strongly in a number of areas of high added-value including telecommunications, earth observation and meteorological satellites.

* I hope finally that we can agree to open dialogue with the European Union on the future landscape of space in Europe. In Britain, the public have always had strong views about the work of the European Union.

* But even as the European Union’s role changes, we cannot afford – either financially or politically – to undermine or duplicate the skills and capabilities of ESA.

* As ESA was created by the Ministers of its Member States, we must decide its future.

* The European Union’s credibility now rests on delivering Galileo on time, and preferably, in budget.

* So, despite the challenges facing Europe, with difficult economic conditions and difficult fiscal pressures, the UK is increasing its investment in ESA, has shown strong commitment to the space sector, and is embracing the opportunity to work with Europe, particularly as a hub for satellite applications at the Harwell campus in Oxford.

5. The Government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries’. It set four ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth‘ (PDF 1.7MB), published at Budget 2011:

To create the most competitive tax system in the G20

To make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business

To encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy

To create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe.

Work is underway across Government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the Government wants the economy to travel.

6. BIS’s online newsroom contains the latest press notices and speeches, as well as video and images for download. It also features an up to date list of BIS press office contacts. See for more information.

SpaceRef staff editor.