While your correspondent cannot call himself a huge fan of the game, by family tradition, he supports the London football team of Queen’s Park Rangers (QPR). Nevertheless, it was to his surpise, that, during one of his irregular trips to a very tense relegation avoidance match (against Stoke), that in between all the swearing and booing at the opposing team, the fans appeared to be chanting their support for the NASA’s now retired and re-entered Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS). While it sounded like ”Come on UARS!” in fact what they were actually chanting was ”Come On You Rs!” (Rs is the nickname for Rangers).
On a more serious subject, sport (especially Premier league football) remains the main reason that BSkyB’s subscription satellite television operation remains so popular. Its £1 billion a year profitability is why Rupert Murdoch is so keen to gain control of the firm (nearly bringing down a Prime Minister in the process).
Actually, so great are its reveneus that satellite television has skewed the analysis of figures on UK satellite industry. Recently, the UK Space Agency has been crowing about how ”space revenues” are growing at circa 10% – and that is in a recession. However it should be realised that lot of this business is, in fact, in the form of revenues from derivative interests such as satellite broadcasting. satellite services, and space insurance. While this growth and revenue does feed downwards (or rather upstream) to the rest of the industry, sadly, satellite and launch vehicle manufacturing remains a very small business in the United Kingdom.
Nevertheless, due to its high-added-value small volume manufacturing nature, space remains one of the few high tech industries (Formula One motor racing is another example) that the UK can genuinely compete and succeed in.
As such, like QPR, the UK Space Industry gets this writer’s well deserved, if a little too irregular, support.