Organizations that Support and Regulate the UK space industry
Great Britain has high hopes for the development of the UK Space Sector and the UK space industry. If 20 years ago, the question of does England have a space program was not even raised yet, today the answer to it is obvious.
Over the past five years alone, the country’s income from the space industry has grown from 15 to 17 billion pounds, and employment by the UK space organizations rose by 7% (from 42 to 45 thousand people). Investment in R&D is five times the national average, and the number of space organizations UK has reached 1200, up almost 25% from 2018.
The UK National Space Strategy, adopted in the fall of 2021, is designed to further consolidate efforts in the fields of science, technology, defense, diplomacy, and government regulation in order to bring the country to a leading position in the global space market. What does the growing UK Space community look like and what UK space organizations regulate its activities.
The UK space industry & community: facts in figures
The largest number of UK space organisations are in the South East of England with 320 and London with over 213. These space organisations are followed by the South West with 112 establishments, Scotland with 99, and East of England with 91. West and East Midlands have 101 space organisations, North of England — 72, Wales — 36, Yorkshire — 31. Northern Ireland, with 20 local organizations, closes the list.
Space organisations UK are categorized as follows:
- Space Manufacturing – 413
- Space Applications – 354
- Ancillary Support Services – 237
- Research Centers – 83
- Space Test Facilities – 63
- Space Operations – 40
- Networks – 31
- Funding and investment – 22
- Incubation Centres – 18
- Key Sector Organizations – 12
- Spaceports – 7
- Others – 3
A visual representation of the current state of the UK space sector is given by the UK Space Sector Landscape Map, developed by KTN in collaboration with the UK Space Agency. Who regulates and coordinates the activities of such a large number of space organizations, the UK already has? Let’s find out.
Key UK space organizations
UK Space Agency
An executive agency was founded in 2010 to replace the British National Space Centre (BNSC). The UK Space Agency is funded by the Ministry of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It is responsible for space regulations, providing technical advice on the government’s space strategy, and developing programmes to implement that strategy. In particular, the agency oversees the UK Launch programme, under which seven UK spaceports should start operating in the country over the next three years, according to the UK space industry act. It also provides financial and grant support to British satellite start-ups and rocket manufacturing companies Orbex Space and Skyrora Ltd, ensuring working space regulations in the country.
European Space Agency
ESA is Europe’s gateway to space. Founded in 1975, it brings together 22 countries and more than 2,200 employees worldwide, whose mission is to develop Europe’s space capabilities and investments in space for the benefit of people in Europe and around the world. ESA has dozens of programmes, most of which have UK investment and/or research contributions. Major ESA missions and projects include:
- Earth Observation — Aeolus, Copernicus, Cryosat, GEOS.
- Navigation — Galileo.
- Rocket Launch — Arianne, Vega, Kourou Spaceport in French Guiana.
- Interplanetary missions — BepiColombo (Mercury), ExoMars.
- Exoplanet and Deep Space Research — Hubble Telescope.
In addition, ESA works closely with NASA, particularly on the Artemis lunar mission, the James Webb telescope project, and satellite launches.
The Ministry of Defence Space Directorate
Responsible for space law in the UK, defence space policy, strategy, and intergovernmental as well as international coordination. Works closely with the UK Space Command, established as part of the National Space Strategy on 1 April 2021, which includes representatives from the Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force, and civil service.
Scottish Space Leadership Council
SSLC was established in 2017 as a voluntary organization to support and promote Scotland’s Space Sector. The motto is Space Starts Here! The Council brings together and coordinates the activities of payload manufacturers, launch service providers, spaceports, supplying companies, government and academic institutions and other participating organizations in the ecosystem by providing a collegial platform for quarterly meetings, workgroups, seminars and dedicated work streams.
SSLC’s key initiatives are: developing supply chain infrastructure to increase the export potential of Scottish space companies, creating synergies between Scotland’s space sector and other high-tech industries, increasing the social and environmental responsibility of the space industry, and strengthening the UK’s position as a leading European nation in New Space.
In 2020, with support from the UK Space Agency and the Scottish Government, the Council initiated the Scottish Spaceport Alliance to accelerate the development of UK launch infrastructure and fill the missing link between payload production and data analysis. SSLC firmly believes that satellite launches from Scotland will not only make Great Britain the European launch hub, but also strengthen its international role in combating climate change.
ADS Group – Aerospace, Defence, Security & Space
The space industry association represents and supports the interests of more than 1,100 UK defence, aviation and space industries, with a combined workforce of around 400,000 and exports of £46 billion a year. ADS space industry association members have access to a host of events, activities and programs that enable them to innovate and grow. The key objectives of this space industry association include: supporting production and industry supply chains in the UK, and encouraging investment in technology and innovation. The hallmark of ADS is its subsidiary Farnborough International Limited (FIL), which manages the Farnborough International Air Show.
Satellite Finance Network (SFN)
SFN was launched on July 16, 2013, at the UK Space Conference in Glasgow. It is a network of individuals and organizations in the financial, legal, insurance, government and space sectors. Includes a wide range of participants, from start-ups and small companies to industry leaders, united by a common interest in satellite projects in the UK and beyond. Actively supports start-ups and growing companies from their initial ideas to listing on the stock market. Like other space organizations UK boats, it provides them with access to business angels, venture capital, banks, industry, academia, government and professional services, including insurance, legal and technical assistance.
Trade association for the British space industry with 30 years of experience. Represents and promotes space organizations to key stakeholders, including government, nationally and internationally, under the UK space industry act. The association’s structure includes 7 committees and 4 working groups in various areas of the space sector: Earth observation, satellite communications, security and defence, space research, launch systems, trade and export, media relations, etc.
British Innovation Agency (formerly Technology Strategy Board). It is part of the non-departmental public organization UK Research and Innovation, subsidized by the UK government. The organization may not ensure working space regulations, but it brings together business, researchers and policymakers to exchange ideas, solve problems and create new technological advances. Invests in the commercialization of new business ideas to strengthen the economy and improve the well-being of society.
Satellite Applications Catapult
An independent technology and innovation company committed to boosting productivity in the UK by helping organizations use and benefit from satellite technology through satellite applications. The space regulations company is running several high-tech projects, and the details are publicly available on its website.
Space Cluster Harwell
A large association of more than 100 industrial, scientific and government organizations related to the UK space industry and space law UK. Its goal is to promote collaboration and knowledge-sharing to stimulate interdisciplinary innovation. The campus is located in Oxfordshire on an area of 700 acres and brings together the scientific and technical potential of more than 6,000 scientists, engineers and innovators and infrastructure worth £3 billion. The science hub has a clear action plan until 2028 and plans to make one of the largest contributions to international science.
Those are the TOP 10 organizations that support and regulate UK’s space industry, offering working space regulations and financial support under the UK space industry act. So, does England have a space program? Definitely yes. Given the growth statistics of the sector in recent years, their performance can be considered satisfactory. But Great Britain is only at the beginning of a great space journey, and there is still a lot of painstaking work to advance the UK space industry.
A directory of organizations relevant to the UK Space Industry
- UK Space Agency: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-space-agency
- NASA: https://www.nasa.gov/
- UK Space Trade Association: https://www.ukspace.org/
- Innovate UK: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/innovate-uk
- European Space Agency: https://www.esa.int/
- Policy Exchange: https://policyexchange.org.uk/
- Scottish Space Leadership Council: https://scotlandin.space/