The history of the UK space sector

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Before the Covid pandemic brought the world’s economies to a grinding halt, the global space market was valued at an eye-watering £270billion. Estimates indicate the sector could nearly double in value in the next eight to nine years, and Brexit Britain will not want to be left out. Earlier last month the Government published its historic National Space Strategy, which outlines how the UK will try to grab a bigger slice of the £490billion pie.

Will Whitehorn, Chair of Seraphim Space Investment Trust and former president of Virgin Galactic, has now told the UK must capitalise on the opportunities this projected growth has to offer.

In particular, the industry insider believes space will play a major role in the fight against climate change.

He thinks countries like the UK have an opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint by offloading “our dirties industries” into orbit.

Data centres and crypto mining operations that burn through tremendous amounts of fossil fuels, he argued, can be run from space where they would have access to limitless energy from the Sun.

Further down the line, Mr Whitehorn said the UK should invest in space-based solar energy, which scientists are confident can be collected in orbit and beamed down to Earth in microwave form.

The expert said he is positive the UK can and should invest in these opportunities to stay ahead of the curve.

The key, he argued, is investment and legislation that will help the British space sector thrive.

He said: “It is well worth the UK investing the time and resources and taking a lead here.

Prince William: Whitehorn on importance of space exploration

“A) It’ll be good for jobs.

“B) It’ll be good for our balance of payments.

“And C) It will help save the planet.”

Pre-pandemic, the UK’s space sector has already grown by more than 3,000 jobs and contributed billions of pounds to the economy, Government figures show.

According to the official Size and Health of the UK Space Industry report published in May, the sector grew by 5.7 percent (2.8 percent per annum).

The sector was valued at an impressive £16.4billion, having grown from £14.8billion in the 2016 to 2017 survey period.

And in the coming years, Mr Whitehorn thinks the exports of space technology are going to go “well beyond that very quickly”.

In the same period, employment in the sector grew from 41,900 to 45,100.

Mr Whitehorn said the Government’s space strategy provides sets out a good roadmap for the sector to grow more.

He called the document a “good piece of work”, and said it does a good job of making the link between space and climate.

He said: “The best thing to my mind it’s done, is prioritise the role of space in the battle against climate change.

“That’s something I could pretty much say I’m fixated on.

“If you look at where we are globally at the moment and if you look at the ambitions of COP26, which is coming shortly, I think there is very little chance that humanity can make the kind of targets to limit the impact of an increasing temperature unless we industrialise in space.”

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