The British government is renewing its efforts to be one of the leading countries in space exploration. The British space Industry should soon expand.
It’s common knowledge that the UK has struggled in its aspirations to be among the leading countries in space exploration. While the USA and Russia head the helm with multiple rocket launches, decades of successful satellite launches, and one man walking on the moon, the British have had a rough start. Now, five decades later, the race to space is making headlines once more. The British government has unveiled its plans to increase the British space industry market share to an astounding 10% of the global market in only ten years. What sparked this renewed vigor?
In 1969, the British launched Black Arrow, the rocket designed and manufactured in the UK. It soared gracefully and fell to the Earth in a minute. It was a colossal disaster for the British space industry. But despite this failure, the UK government rallied and performed three more launches, only the fourth and last one succeeding. The result was evident: the British spirit of persistence had placed the Prospero satellite in the Earth’s orbit. The Black Arrow project was subsequently closed. This success made the UK the sixth nation to launch a satellite into space and the only country in the world that not only developed the technology to do so but also scrapped the project.
This momentous success led to the establishment of the British National Space Centre in 1985, which serves as a coordinator for British government agencies and other foreign and domestic bodies in the promotion of British participation in the international space market. Working closely with NASA, the British National Space Centre managed to launch the first woman in space, who became the first British woman to ever leave Earth’s orbit. Helen Sherman became the first British cosmonaut in 1991. She spent a total of eight days orbiting Earth in a Russian spacecraft.
With such a long and troubled history in space exploration, it’s no surprise that the UK government is putting its money where its mouth is and announcing a series of investment opportunities to attract interest and stimulate the economy.
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The UK has already seen sizable growth in the space sector. Statistics handled by know.space and commissioned by the UK Space Agency reveal that in the period between 2018 and 2019, overall gross income has increased from £14.8 billion to £16.4 billion. This represents a steady growth of roughly 5.7% compared to previous years. Not only is the British space industry highly lucrative, but it is also creating ample educational and professional opportunities for thousands of British citizens. Employment is up by 4%, with more than 3,000 job openings in the private sector for 2019 alone.
On top of that, the British government has allocated funds for education that will go to engineers and students interested in developing their skills in the space industry. The goal is to attract as many young British people as possible to breathe the air of youth in a stagnating field.
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To capitalize on this growth in the industry, the UK government has unveiled plans to establish several launch sites on British soil. The UK will be host to two types of space launches – vertical and horizontal.
Vertical launches are the traditional way of sending a rocket or a satellite to space, while horizontal ones involve a rocket carrier that ‘helps’ the main body leave the ground. There are seven proposed spaceport locations, five of which are located in Scotland, one in North Wales and one in Cornwall, South-West England. The proposal for the launch sites was met with enthusiasm.
In addition to the launch sites, large British companies such as Skyrora and Orbex have unveiled their plans for a technological upgrade to their rocket designs. Both companies have a long and successful history in contributing innovations to the British space industry.
The new rocket designs are expected to upgrade several vital systems and make energy expenditure less costly and more eco-friendly in the long run. The Orbex Prime rocket is scheduled to launch in late 2022. Similarly, Skyrora is scheduling its three-stage Skyrora XL rocket to launch in late 2022 as well.
To address growing concerns with space pollution and the energy crisis, the UK government has funded several projects that aim at developing self-sustaining and environmentally friendly rocket fuel. The British Space Industry wants to help reduce the county’s carbon imprint.
Indeed, the future for British-led space exploration looks bright. It seems the UK government has learned from its mistakes and will aim at financing and developing technologies that will help push the country and humanity to new heights.