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UK space sector gears up to be ‘on the top’

UK: At present, the UK is the fourth largest contributor to the European Space Agency (ESA) with EUR 260 million (GBP 215 million) in 2012, behind Italy (EUR 350 million), France (EUR 717 million) and Germany (EUR 750 million). If someone wants to get a sense of how good the British space sector feels about itself right now, take a look at the shiny new building of the Kepler facility that’s just gone up on the Surrey Research Park, BBC reported.
The Kepler facility is a major new centre for the production and testing of satellites. It is where the first big batch of operational spacecraft for Europe’s Galileo sat-nav project is being assembled – a total of 14 satellites.
There are other platforms in various states of readiness – for Kazakhstan, for Canada, Russia, China and the UK.
The building represents must-have capacity for Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) which has now outgrown the cleanroom area – workspace with a controlled environment to minimise contamination – on its existing site in Guildford.
Leaving aside the UK’s investment in Galileo, key upcoming British projects to be put together in the Kepler facility include a novel radar satellite called NovaSAR, and a spacecraft to demonstrate the smartest new ideas in space technology, appropriately called TechDemoSat.
Kepler was officially opened by ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain, alongside Universities and Science Minister David Willetts. The coalition government considers the sector to be a “winner” – one that can help put “UK plc” back on track. The government and industry now have a joint plan to push the sector forward, and Willetts has been steadily ticking off the boxes in a checklist that broadly follows the recommendations in the Space Innovation and Growth Strategy (S-IGS) published in 2010.
This document laid out the path it believed could take the UK from a position where it currently claims about 6 percent of the world market in space products and services to about 10 percent, by 2030, creating perhaps 100,000 new hi-tech jobs in the process.
Key S-IGS recommendations implemented so far include the establishment of the UK Space Agency (UKSA). Government support for NovaSAR and TechDemoSat are ticks in the boxes that called for investment in Earth observation and R&D.
Other ticks go next to the International Space Innovation Centre (ISIC) set up at Harwell, Oxfordshire, and the Catapult Centre in Space Applications at a yet-to-be decided location, although quite possibly alongside ISIC. These institutions are very much industry-focused and will seek to foster near and far ideas and bring them to market.
It is pertinent to mention here that all 19 member states of ESA will meet in November to agree programmes and budgets for the next three to five years. The last round in 2008 was valued at some EUR 10 billion, but at that stage the economic situation was nothing like as bad as it is now, and the euro crisis had yet to show itself.
Source: BBC