The UK space industry is hoping for progress on emergency mobile networks, Earth observation, broadband internet and a technology programme following the launch of the country's first space agency.

With the establishment of the UK Space Agency effective 1 April, the UK has a central, budget-holding agency to fund civil spaceflight activities and represent the country on international bodies and within the European Space Agency.

UK Space has an annual budget of £230 million ($343 million), and will make its first significant impact with the setting out, by September, of a technology strategy along with analyses of markets in which government help could give industry a boost. By September, for example, an Earth observation review could decide if the country has its own satellites, contracts for which could be worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

Industry is arguing for a UK system that meets government's civil imagery needs and sells services commercially. The government already buys imagery on a commercial basis, but it has also agreed to a climate change task force, whose recommendations could influence any UK Earth observation decision.

Another review with a September deadline will determine potential UK broadband internet provision by satellite, possibly increasing the number of government-leased telecommunications spacecraft. The government has also agreed to support satellite operators to create an S-band mobile communications market - which industry expects in Europe to be a multi-billion euro revenue stream.

Surrey Satellite Technology executive chairman Sir Martin Sweeting says: "Appropriate government support for innovation by industry before it reaches commercial maturity is critical to ensure that the UK will continue to change the economics of space."

A general election due before the September deadlines may bear on the UK Space strategy. If the Labour party does not continue in government, companies are hoping for continuity by encouraging whichever party is in power to engage the space industry through the new space leadership council.

Source: Flight International