The UK has ambitious plans to grow its share of the global space economy, solidifying its position as a key player and innovator in the industry.
The national space strategy lays out a clear vision where a collaborative approach from our government, agencies, expert institutions, commercial businesses and research bodies allows for rounded and successful civil and defence activities.
Lower costs and technological advances have allowed the commercialisation of space, resulting in a strong and growing UK space sector. There is greater opportunity for innovators and investment in fresh technologies and capabilities, but it isn’t always easy for new or tenured companies to navigate the ever-changing world of defence and space.
Recently, Airbus’ Director for Space, Allen Antrobus took part in a webinar hosted by the Institute of Engineering and Technology and UKSpace, covering Innovation and Funding in Military Space.
During the webinar, Allen, as well as representatives from UK Space Command, the UK Cabinet Office, BEIS, the University of Surrey and GrantTree, were able to create some great back and forth discussion on the importance and challenges of space innovation, guided by event chairs Doug Liddle, In-Space Missions and Paul Wells, Chair of the IET’s Satellite Technical Network.
Future military space – what do we need?
Commenting on the potential future requirements of military tech, Allen said “clearly the technology that’s required can be quite difficult to see or anticipate. It’s often useful to look to others around the globe, like the US, for example. Their DARPA programme, which focusses on space adaptive communication nodes, allows cross constellation communication, command and control. Their aim is to understand how stand-alone military satellites can be mixed with commercial constellations.”
Looking at historic UK satcom activities, as well as international projects, the webinar chairs pose the question of whether technology and future satellite constellations should be created with dual use in mind, or for military use alone.
“Historically, a lot of what’s happened in the UK has been dual use. If we want to compete on the global market, we need to be working on technology that is fit for dual use. We deal with a different threat environment in the milsatcom sector, compared to comsat. Comsat companies could take the basis of a product, though, and enhance it to meet dual use needs.”
Milsatcom in the UK – a truly global market
With conversation moving in the direction of how global the milsatcom market can truly be, Allen discusses some of the overseas opportunities that UK industry can take advantage of…
“Space is inherently a global business. Companies operate internationally and so there is a global supply chain as a result. We operate across many continents and do lots of exporting – Spain, Egypt etc. JP9102 is an exciting project in Australia at the moment – it capitalises and builds on the British-Australian bridge created by their respective space agencies. This also highlights the importance of bringing in primes, SMEs and Academia to collaborate and work together.”
In summary, the webinar highlighted a real need for continued innovation within the UK space industry. The panellists understand that progress cannot be made in silos and that there will always be an element of unknown in light of ever-changing military requirements. Allen points out that “we don’t have all the answers, but there is a clear drive to look forward and develop the UK space ecosystem.”
Each and every panellist provided interesting and rich insights in a variety of subjects including threat mitigation, investment, SME/start-up funding and space sustainability. If you weren’t able to attend the webinar and would like to watch on demand, you can do so here: https://events.theiet.org/events/innovation-and-funding-in-milsatcoms/
Interested in learning more about the military space industry? Airbus are sponsoring this year’s IET Milsatcoms, where industry, educators and government will dive even deeper into the technology and opportunities that the sector presents.