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Defence Notes

UK to publish National Space Strategy by Q2 2021

16th December 2020 - 14:00 GMT | by Tim Martin in London

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The UK has confirmed a publication date for its National Space Strategy and provided details of a new R&D initiative known as the Defence Space Enterprise Portfolio.

The highly anticipated UK National Space Strategy will be published in Q1 or Q2 2021, Shephard can exclusively reveal.

Despite an original plan to issue the strategy in the ‘autumn’ of 2020, a new timeframe has been set owing to additional work ‘on alignment’ with the Integrated Review, AVM Harv Smyth, Head of the Space Directorate in the MoD, revealed during a DSEI virtual interview.

‘There will be no surprises in the space strategy when it does get issued,’ he explained. ‘There’s been really good progress as we work hand in glove with our colleagues in the [UK] Space Agency so it has a civil and a military side [included].’

Smyth admitted that the wait for the strategy’s publication had not helped industry and said there is ‘a little bit of a vacuum’ in terms of developments between the Space Directorate, potential suppliers and building new partnerships.

‘I understand their frustration at the moment because we haven't got the strategy out. I would just ask for a bit of patience; [it will be published] by quarter one [or] quarter two next year.

‘We’re very aware industry is looking in and really wanting to help but [asking] “Where are you going, what are your endpoints, what are your priorities?” They need to know [these things] so they can shape their own R&D and their own futures.’

'The key now is to turn a programme into a proper deliverable — which the spending review has helped with — and we are working through the detail at the moment'

AVM Harv Smyth, Head of MoD Space Directorate

Space was a primary focus of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Integrated Review update to Parliament on 19 November, in which he announced a plan to stand up a Space Command, which will lead on the launch of a first UK rocket and satellites from Scotland in 2022.

‘We’re well into that at the moment…the [2022] endpoint is definitely in our programme and we’re marching toward it,’ Smyth added. ‘The team are putting more and more detail on that as each day goes by, through working with partners, the space agency and others.’

The Space Directorate has a team of 15 but it is due to expand next year to 18 with responsibilities split between capabilities, policy and strategy, according to Smyth.

In addition to flagship space programmes like Skynet, a new Defence Space Enterprise Portfolio research and design initative has been introduced under Smyth’s leadership – made up currently of 10 different programmes.

‘Some are very good ideas on PowerPoint, [based on] conceptual, blue sky thinking…some are fairly mature from a TRL [Technology Readiness Level] standpoint and could be launched within the next year or 18 months,’ he explained.

‘It’s these types of things that we’re looking at ahead of the 2022 launch, where we can get something meaningful into space. The key now is to turn a programme into a proper deliverable — which the spending review has helped with — and we are working through the detail at the moment.’

Smyth described other priorities for the Space Directorate in 2021 alongside the publication of the UK National Space Strategy.  These include standing up Space Command, having finances ‘properly sequenced', industry engagement and potentially restructuring the officer exchange programme between the UK and the US Space Force.

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