The UK should consider setting up a new Space Council “along the same lines as the USA”, according to Chris Skidmore, Science Minister, in order to help create a “joined up government policy towards space”.
He was speaking at the launch of Policy Exchange’s Space Policy Unit – the first of its kind at any UK think tank – before a keynote address by the Secretary of the US Air Force Heather Wilson, in which she warned that the next generation of satellites must be built with defensive and offensive capabilities
Chris Skidmore said: “We look at civil contingencies, military, earth observational capacity, space exploration, satellite, commercial opportunities. But how can we make sure every department is aligned on these priorities? Should we be creating a national space framework as a Government and should we be creating a national Space Council for the United Kingdom along the same lines as the USA?”
In her keynote address, Secretary Wilson warned that space had turned from a “benign domain” to a “contested” one.
Secretary Wilson said: “We now have to rethink how we protect what we have and how we design new constellations of satellites to be able to defend themselves. If a conflict extends into space, our satellites must be able to take a punch and fight back… Deterrence is the goal, and to achieve deterrence, we will hold adversary space systems at risk…. A boxer who is able to stand in a ring and take punches is not enough. We must be able to swing back to stop an attacker.”
She also spoke of US concerns over a Russian “space maintenance satellite” that launched some 18 months ago and was said to have “the ability to maintain satellites on orbit”.
“My question was: are they maintaining theirs, or ours?” Secretary Wilson added.
Gabriel Elefteriu, Head of Policy Exchange’s Space Policy Unit, said: “It’s time to recognise space power as a critical component of the UK’s grand strategy in the 21st century. The UK’s entire space enterprise and ambition must be scaled up — and that also implies fostering a sense of national endeavour around this issue.”
“Above all, we need a joined-up vision that connects the economic and industrial aspects to the military-strategic requirements, so that Britain can secure a place among tomorrow’s leading space powers and protect its long-term national interests.”
- The UK’s space industry has grown 91% since 2008
- The whole space industry is worth £15 billion and employs 42,000 people, though some of that relates to satellite broadcasting and other services.
- The UK spends less on space than all other permanent members of the UN Security Council.
- The US, China, Russia, India, Japan, France, Germany and Italy all spend more than £1 billion a year on space. The UK is well below that mark.