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UK again delays space strategy publication

9th July 2021 - 15:03 GMT | by Tim Martin in London

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Skynet is considered the backbone of UK military communications. (Photo: UK MoD)

The UK's National Space Strategy was long supposed to be published, but a new, unexplained delay makes for industry uncertainty.

The UK has decided to delay the publication of its National Space Strategy, having previously committed to releasing it in Q2 2021 and before then Q4 2020.

Having missed the latest publication target, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) did not offer any explanation for the delay, telling Shephard in a statement: ‘The plan remains for the National Space Strategy to be published in due course’.

Allen Antrobus, director of military space at Airbus, said he was disappointed the strategy had not been published yet but expects it to happen ‘in the autumn’.

Complications around funding could be one cause behind the delay.

‘I think there will always be a challenge for senior leadership, whether that's politicians, senior civil servants or the military to match ambition within the funding profile that they are given, whether that's on a national basis or defence basis, as clearly they are competing against, all the other things that [the UK] wants to be able to do,’ Antrobus said.

‘It'll be interesting to see from our perspective how [the Space Strategy] will be implemented… including funding mechanisms needed to be put in place, but we'll wait and see on the timescale, I'm no clearer on times,’ explained Jim Graham, managing director of the space division in QinetiQ.

‘I would sooner wait and see a strategy that is coherent and has behind it the full weight of government than something that's rushed,’ added Paul Day, business development executive for space at Raytheon.

Whatever priorities are eventually outlined for military space-based projects from the Space Strategy, Antrobus wants to see them achieved ‘potentially in a more cost-effective way’ than in the past.

'I would sooner wait and see a strategy that is coherent and has behind it the full weight of government than something that's rushed.'Paul Day, Raytheon

‘I think the political intent is clear, in terms of trying to generate a different approach in terms of partnering, looking for long term partners, but that's still I think, going to require a step change from the commercial elements inside MoD and inside wider government,’ he explained.

Day put forward three items he hoped to see addressed in the Space Strategy: protecting and defending UK space aspirations; regulation to encourage ‘the right behaviours’; and focusing on the UK supply chain.

‘We have a very vibrant space sector, and a lot of it is SME-based, but not all of those companies are going to make it through, so understanding the discriminating technologies [they possess], could give the UK an advantage, such that we can meet our export aspirations,’ he commented.

Day also revealed that Raytheon partners the UK MoD on a space-based ISR ‘operational capability demonstrator', but he declined to share any additional details.

‘We also have some [space-based] manufacturing programmes of record in Scotland, but again because of the nature of the programmes I can’t go into them,’ said Day.

Beyond any specific defence programmes that could potentially be included in the Space Strategy, Nik Smith, regional director UK and Europe at Lockheed Martin Space, said that the company would like to see a ‘continuation of commitment to growth’ from the government.

 

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