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That's one small setback for Spaceport Cornwall, one giant leap for the UK space sector

10 January 2023

By Clotilde Gros

Yesterday saw the first major satellite launch from British soil, in an attempt to send a payload of telecommunications, ocean mapping, navigation and military satellites in to orbit from Cornwall. The launch was symbolic of the huge progress being made by the UK’s fast-growing space industry.

The UK’s attempt to join the space race with a launch from the first UK space ports may have ended in failure but one thing that certainly was a success was the communications strategy. The UK has always done well with creating an impression of being the underdog, punching above its weight, outperforming larger, deeper pocketed rival countries. But peel back the curtain and space is a major plank of the Government’s agenda for growing the economy.

The UK space sector holds great potential, generating an income of £16.5 billion annually according to the Government’s November 2022 UK Satellite Infrastructure report. And with continued investment, this could double to £30 billion by 2030. The report also highlights that the sector directly employs over 47,000 people in the UK, delivering high value jobs for a highly skilled workforce, and supports almost 2,500 apprentices across the sector. These jobs are spread across the UK including Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, the Midlands and the South West.. Space exports from the UK were valued at £5.3 billion to the UK, in 2021.

Everything from research and development centers to actually building satellites is produced in the UK. In fact, the UK is already a leader in satellite manufacturing and this country’s manufacturing sector is seen as the best in the world for niche specialisms. Small satellites provide essential services for every single one of us and improve our day to day lives. This trend is increasing, which is why having a launch capability in the UK is so strategically significant.

The UK Government is behind the sector and is committed to increase public and private R&D spending, investment in research and development.

So, the communications of the UK being the plucky team that tried so hard will play out for the next few weeks over the failed launch of a payload, but the evidence suggests the country might have to finally take some credit for actually being one of the world’s best.