UK government urged to improve national space capabilities

By Rob Coppinger

The UK government is being warned that while 90% of its military capabilities rely on satellites, the country’s capability in space systems is waning, with a continuing reliance on foreign-owned orbital assets.

In a 38-page report published on 14 September, satellite industry body UKspace calls for the creation of a robust national space programme, increased research and development, more involvement in pan-European projects and the monitoring of threats to UK civil and military space infrastructure. The document is a response to the UK government’s call for a debate on its national security strategy.

“We are in danger of losing this capability as government and industrial competencies wane. The UK’s continued reliance on foreign-owned space assets for our national security and for many defence applications represents a risk which is no longer sustainable,” says the report.

The UK relies heavily on US assets, and only has its own military communications constellation, the latest generation of which is called Skynet 5. It also spends far less on space as a percentage of gross domestic product than other European economies.

France is supporting a European space situational awareness system and other European countries are involved in multilateral dual-use Earth observation projects. But the UK has declined so far to have any substantial involvement in the European Global Monitoring for Environment and Security programme, which will monitor the Earth using a range of sensors.

However, a senior Royal Air Force official says the UK Ministry of Defence is already looking at the long-term replacement strategy for its Skynet 5 system, as part of a so-called future core networks programme worth over £1 billion ($1.7 billion).


Author: EARSC

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