The UK & USA Technology Safeguards Agreement could destroy New Space Ambitions

20th Oct 2020
US UK Technology Safeguards Agreement

While the UK still continues apace in its efforts to create vertical launch facilities in the North of Scotland and a horizonal launch operation in the South of England, the UK Government have published the “Technology Safeguards Agreement” between the US Government & UK in relation to launches from UK soil.

You can find the entire agreement here…

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/927083/CS_UK_USA_1.2020_USA_Techno_Safeguards_Space_Launches.pdf

As its name suggests, the agreement is in place to safeguard the technology of both countries and ensure it has the levels of protection that allow it to operate effectively and competitively without any potential risks that any bad actors could compromise any missions launched from UK soil using or incorporating in some way, US manufactured technology.

Essentially, this is exactly what the agreement does. At least, in terms of protecting US space technology. In this sense it is very much a one-sided agreement – which may have very well been its intention – we are less familiar with the background and the discussions/negotiations leading up to this point. Some aspects of the outline agreement do cause us some concern though. Not just small concerns, but huge, game-changing matters of open-mouthed shock.

A reasonable interpretation of a large chunk of the agreement could read as…
“Yeah, sure, we will make use of your launch facilities, but absolutely no foreigners should come anywhere near any of our hardware. Sure, you can get British guys to offload our trucks and maybe even fuel up the launch vehicle, but that’s it.” Which on the face of it may not seem to big an issue (it is), however, it goes further.

US Govt: As long as no bloody foreigners are involved

The agreement goes on to suggest some controls over launches, hardware etc. from countries other than the UK and America, specifically at launch sites where there will be US launches. In fact there is quite a significant level of detail aimed at “foreign launches, foreign funds, foreign components, foreign workforce”. All sounds very familiar.

So any talk of joint projects or collaboration from either the UK or US governments are absolute nonsense. This simply carves a path for US established aerospace, military etc. to launch from UK soil under a protective cloak of secrecy and opaqueness, with absolutely no involvement by any UK entity in even the smallest aspect of the process other than to operate the forklift truck.

Scotland, a welcoming nation… but no foreigners near our launch sites please!

If we were to summarise the Technology Safeguards Agreement in the very simplest of terms, we would say that it translates into a framework for Lockheed Martin to operate launch from UK soil to the exclusion of “New Space” and “Innovation” written in the style of a UKIP manifesto.

Anybody truly yearning for Scotland or the UK to show the lead in Europe and establishing a base from where we can grow the country’s private commercial space capabilities should be very worried. Because this agreement flies in the face of that level of ambition.

The UK & USA Governments… Led by Donkeys

Both the UK and the USA are currently being led by donkeys. And here we have undeniable evidence of that. If ever there was a sign that collective governments are happy with the status quo and as such are willing to put up barriers to progress, then this is it. But more than that, this is a sign that the administrations of both the UK and America are bumbling through life at a time of global crisis and demonstrating an absolutely disregard for international co-operation and global ambition.

In the case of the UK government, it’s all about Brexit and isolationist, self-preservation under the pretence of incompetence. The Americans on the other… well, there’s Donald Trump (no further explanation required).

Goodbye ambition!

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