Government has ambitious plans for the UK space industry

UK involvement in Space Industry
UK involvement in Space Industry

The Government plans for the UK to play a leading role in the new space age, with new support for domestic satellite launch capability, space weather forecasting, and a National Space Council.

The Government plans for the UK to play a leading role in the new space age, with new support for satellite launch capability in Cornwall and a National Space Council.


This new support comes as part of the Government's modern Industrial Strategy, which aims to help businesses create better, higher-paying jobs in the UK with investment in the skills, industries and infrastructure of the future.

There are significant opportunities for the growing UK space sector as commercial space activity increases globally and the United States leads international efforts to return humans to the Moon by 2024.

New facilities and operational capabilities will be developed at Newquay airport (Spaceport Cornwall), with US launch operator Virgin Orbit, to enable small satellite launches at the site in the early 2020s. The UK Space Agency and Cornwall Council intend to make up to £20 million available for the project. This investment remains subject to business case approval processes, including from Cornwall Council later in 2019.

Spaceport Cornwall could create 150 jobs and enable the UK to compete for a share of the global market for launching small satellites worth a potential £3.9 billion to 2030. Launches from the UK will become an opportunity to inspire children and young people to take up careers in science, engineering or even as space entrepreneurs.

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Business Secretary Greg Clark said: ”Space is not only about pushing the boundaries of human knowledge, it is a rapidly growing sector of our economy which plays a key role in our modern Industrial Strategy, promotes global Britain and ensures our national security.

“These exciting plans from Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit to make horizontal launch a reality from Cornwall will help further our position as a leader in the new space age.

“Alongside our commitment to the proposed vertical launch spaceport in Sutherland, this is making the UK the most attractive place in Europe for those looking to Earth’s orbit and beyond.”


The UK government is working with the United States to establish the necessary technical and legal safeguards for US space launch vehicle operations from UK launch sites. The US State Department has already approved a Technical Assistance Agreement (TAA) allowing detailed technical discussions and strategic planning to commence. This would allow Virgin Orbit, which is also investing around £2.5 million in the project, to operate its LauncherOne system and Cosmic Girl carrier aircraft from Cornwall Airport Newquay. A maiden US launch is expected later this year.

A new National Space Council, to be established later this year, will provide strategic leadership on space across government, coordinating all aspects of the UK’s space strategy, investment and use of space through a new National Space Framework.

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