Euro Space Race: UK Government clueless amidst Brexit chaos10th Aug 2021
The UK is very advanced in its space race efforts with a huge focus on the building of launch sites and two big players building launch vehicles. But it is facing stiff competition from Europe as Germany, in particular, has seriously ramped up its activities in the sector. In fact, one of the two companies, Orbex, building launch vehicles for the UK industry also has its roots in Germany and Denmark, with most of its directors including the CEO also based in those countries. Only recently Orbex were actively promoting the German space industry…
It’s looking very much like the German space companies and likely the German administration are taking full advantage of the UK’s Brexit chaos to accelerate their own space industry ambitions and compete directly with the UK in the race to be first into orbit. And even if it is a UK launch vehicle that’s first into space from Europe, it is possible it will be the German-based Orbex.
Ukrainian rocket engines in German rockets
One of the ways in which the German launch companies were able to accelerate their progress was to incorporate technology acquired from Ukraine.
German rocket builder Rocket Factory Augsburg, a subsidiary of OHB, the German government’s go-to Space contractor, was recently reported to be using a Ukrainian rocket engine, rather than spend the years it would likely take to develop one of their own. This allowed them to catch up with others in the industry who had fully created and tested much higher spec. and better performing engines. We reported on this at the time…
There remains doubt over whether a technology transfer agreement exists between the EU and Ukraine, placing this arrangement into questionable territory. Although we are sure that RFA will clarify this at some point.
Things were made worse by the British government ploughed £400 million into acquiring a stake in satellite company OneWeb, thinking it was buying a GPS satellite navigation network…. yes, that really happened. This was money that could have been spent on building the country’s rocket launch capabilities.
So, whilst the UK government was squandering huge amounts of cash on things it knew very little about – presumably without the knowledge of the UK Space Agency – other governments across mainland Europe were placing their full support behind their home grown private space enterprises and were doing so with additional support from the European Union and the European Space Agency, leaving the UK trailing well behind.