Sunday, 3 April 2011

United Kingdom 2011 Budget Boosts British Space Industry

Before I start this post, I should make it clear that this blog has been conceived to serve a higher purpose - that of the acquisition and furtherance of technical knowledge. In the words of Leonardo Da Vinci:-

"The acquisition of any knowledge whatever is always useful to the intellect, because it will be able to banish the useless things and retain those which are good. For nothing can be loved or hated unless it is first known."

Whilst I do not intend to sully myself unduly with such base concerns as politics, the following story is most definitely worthy of note.

On the 23rd of March the Chancellor of The Exchequer, The Rt. Hon. George Osborne MP, announced the United Kingdom 2011 budget. The budget had some good news for British Science, and in particular the British Space Sector.

The BBC reports that the Budget includes a raft of measures to increase the competitiveness of the UK Space Industry, which is currently worth some £7.5 billion per annum, and is growing at the rate of 10% per annum.

The measures take the form of a £10 million injection of funding to support new technologies used in spacecraft systems, and a change to the 1986 Outer Space Act, which affects insurance and underwriting concerns.

The £10 million on offer will be matched by industry and is part of £100 million on offer to British Science as a whole. It will be matched by industry to start a National Space Technology Programme.

The 1986 Outer Space Act is the primary piece of legislation governing British Space activities. At present, liabilities are essentially unlimited and this makes it more expensive for UK companies to compete with their international competitors. Mr Osborne has asked The UK Space Agency to assess how best to change this.

Additionally, licensing arrangements will be clarified for Space Tourism companies, such as Sir Richard Bransons' Virgin Galactic venture. This should encourage such companies to base themselves in the UK.

Mr. Ian Godden, chairman of ADS (an umbrella group representing British Space Companies) stated:-

"The space sector is an unsung success story, supporting 70,000 jobs in the UK and generating £7.5 billion per year to the economy. Industry and government have in place a shared plan to grow this to £40bn and this additional investment will assist in achieving that aim"

Whilst I welcome the injection of funding from the Coalition Government, and the recognition of the contribution made by UK Space and Aerospace companies to the success of Britain that this implies, I feel almost bound to say that it is too little, too late. I speak as one who has still not forgiven the UK establishment for the  cancellation of the TSR2 in the 1960s, and the shocking and destructive scrapping of the Black Arrow satellite launch system in the early 1970s. Now, if my own small investigations are anything to go by, £10 million is going to be a drop in the ocean for the UK Space Sector, even with the Industry contributions.

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