On 4th February, the House of Commons held a debate on the UK Space Industry. In a debate secured by Midlothian MP Owen Thompson, MPs discussed the need to ensure that the regulatory framework for space businesses across the UK was able to facilitate growth, rather than being uncompetitive. MPs considered the wide breadth of space jobs in the UK – from the spaceports to satellites, and powering space studies helping us understand everything from human diseases to climate change.
Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, Science and Innovation, highlighted the Society’s own role, stating “In fact, the British Interplanetary Society is the oldest space advocacy organisation on Earth.”
Many MPs were keen to ensure that the the UK’s space industry could play a major role in our post-COVID recovery, a theme the BIS will explore at our Reinventing Space conference later in 2021, together with environmental and sustainability issues. They felt that the pace needs to be stepped up if we are to ensure that the UK can meet the government’s target of a 10% global space market share by 2030. Their main concerns related to the speed of the launch licencing process, the UK’s role post-Brexit, and how the government would use the £600m space budget which had been brought back under government control, away from the UK Space Agency.
Amanda Solloway, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy whose brief covers the space sector, explained that the goverment was establishing a world-leading regulatory framework, overseen by the Civil Aviation Authority. The government was working in partnership with bodies in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to build on local strengths, and £40m had been allocated in grants to the UK spaceports, with the first launches expected in 2022.
A £15m national national space innovation programme, the UK’s first dedicated fund for space technology, had beed launched, and Ms Solloway also highlighted the free trade deal with the EU, and ongoing £374 million annual investment in the European Space Agency.
A full analysis of this debate will be available in SpaceFlight. With many thanks to Francesca Sinclair for her summary of the debate.