FARNBOROUGH 2008: Lack of space leaves a void

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Visitors to Farnborough might be impressed by the amount of space available – but less impressed with the number of space-related exhibits.

At Farnborough 2006 there was a dedicated space hall, plus a special space day on the Wednesday. But there’s no space hall this year and also absent are the European Space Agency, Arianespace and Virgin Galactic.

One of the reasons is the Berlin ILA2008 Air Show, with its massive space pavilion, courtesy of ESA, which was held in May. It also had three full days of space conferences. A Farnborough spokesperson said that those space exhibitors who are here said they wanted to be in the main halls and not in a dedicated pavilion.

The British National Space Centre (BNSC) will have a large delegation at the show, but no stand. It’s saving its budget for a presence as the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), which will be held in Glasgow between September 29 and October 3.

NASA is here, with a small exhibit, and NASA Administrator Michael Griffin also will be attending the show on Tuesday. NASA spokesperson Beth Dickey says: “Dr. Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for aeronautics, will also be attending with a delegation from NASA's headquarters in Washington, DC The aeronautics directorate views the Farnborough and Paris air shows as extremely important international venues for its business.”

But Jacques.Denavaut, spokesperson at Arianespace, says: “Farnborough is more about aeronautics and military than space and we have to make choices. For institutional matters, the Paris Air Show and ILA Berlin are more important for us. For commercial business, Satellite in Washington DC, the World Satellite Business Week in Paris, Communic’Asia in Singapore and the PTC Conference in Honolulu are key.”

The Russian space industry is well represented with the S.P. Korolev Rocket & Space Corporation, and both the Samara and Khrunichev Space Centres. And flying the UK flag are EADS Astrium and smaller organisations like Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, although Astrium has had to leave its ExoMars Rover under dust covers in the garage, ready for IAC.

Ian Pearson MP, minister of state for science and Innovation, who will be at the show today, says: “Space contributes around £7 billion a year to the UK economy, and the strategy is to increase the UK share of this fast growing international sector. The space sector also creates a demand for highly skilled people, and the interest it generates provides an excellent platform for engaging the public on wider issues of science.

So the UK is committed to space – but there are just too many space-related shows this year for the region’s over-stretched budgets.