Select Committee on Trade and Industry Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Mr Mark Hempsell


  The memorandum covers the space infrastructure aspects of the UK space policy. "Space infrastructure" being the collective term for the systems that provide a space capability such as launch systems and space based platforms. It is a personal submission from Mark Hempsell, who has a life long professional interest in the space infrastructure and its development.

  The memorandum first outlines the current policy of the UK Government, which is to avoid all involvement in all space infrastructure activities. It shows how this effects the support actually received by the space segment of the aerospace industry as opposed to support for customers of space engineering products. The result of this policy is that UK space engineering receives around one sixth the support (in GDP terms) of a typical industrialised nation. This is the lowest support in the industrialised world by a very considerable margin.

  As a consequence the UK space engineering industry is very small when considered as a fraction of the total aerospace industry. At 2 per cent it is around one tenth the size of the space sectors of other aerospace industries. A further consequence is that at least a quarter of the British Government's space spending goes into importing space infrastructure services from Europe and America.

  From these consequences it is argued that the future of the aerospace industry overall could be adversely impacted. It is also argued that the non-involvement in infrastructure as many adversely impacts on the Government's policy to exploit the potential of space applications.

  The memorandum then proceeds to address the three rationales that summarise the arguments that have been presented to the Government through the BNSC since its foundation. These three rationales concern:

    1.  the good management of Government resources;

    2.  the ensuring the nation's strategic commercial interests are protected;

    3.  providing capability to deal with global scale catastrophes.

  The conclusions of the discussion is that there is a strong case that the current policy of non-involvement is hurting the UK space engineering industry, the Government's own applications focused policy and the interests of the nations as a whole. Further the adverse consequences are likely to be considerably exacerbated as time progresses. It is therefore regrettable to record that despite the strength and consensus behind these arguments, that have now been made over decades, the Government has not yet even acknowledged that these arguments have been made, let alone subjected them to any serious appraisal or evaluation process.


1.1  Scope

  1.1.1  This memorandum concerns the UK Government policy on space infrastructure. It has been prepared as evidence to the inquiry Parliamentary Select Committee on Trade and Industry inquiry into UK Space policy.

  1.1.2  The memorandum describes the current Government policy on space infrastructure and its consequences. It outlines the arguments that have been presented to the Government through the BNSC on the subject. And it highlights the apparent lack of any consideration this important aspect received in the recent policy review process.

1.2  Technical Background

  1.2.1  A space infrastructure is the totality of systems that provide a space capability. In this sense the word "infrastructure" has the same meaning that it has in a terrestrial context, although its use in the space context is relatively new, dating from the early 1980's. Currently the space infrastructure includes systems such as:

    —  launch systems;

    —  data relay and tracking facilities;

    —  in orbit platforms and stations.

  1.2.2  Since the space infrastructure consists of the systems that provide space capability, it determines what space activity is possible, either technically or financially. It follows that it is inevitably the key element at the core of any space policy. The British Government has attempted to avoid direct involvement in the space infrastructure since the mid sixties—presumably as a response to the conclusions in the Plowden report (1) and its concerns over the dominance of aerospace in the UK economy. However this has not removed its importance to Britain and its consequences continue to adversely impact the national interest in many areas.

1.3  Personal Background

  1.3.1  The memorandum draws upon my personal experiences with the BNSC policy generation process in the field of space infrastructure. I was previously employed by British Aerospace Space and Communications (which is now Matra Marconi Space) at Stevenage. In the latter stages of my career there I was involved with space infrastructure studies specialising in space stations and manned systems. In 1991 I moved to the University of Bristol as Lecturer in Space Technology hoping to continue my work on the space infrastructure on a more academic basis.

  1.3.2  Both in my work at British Aerospace and University of Bristol I have had occasion to contact the BNSC and make representation to them regarding the British involvement (or more accurately the lack of it) in space infrastructure. These contacts cover most of the history of the BNSC.


  2.0.1  Britain has a reputation for a very negative attitude to spaceflight. This reputation is strongly reinforced by a national civil spending in terms of GDP around less than half a typical industrial nation and the lowest of the major economies by a considerable margin. The BNSC have argued that when military space spending is included the discrepancy is less dramatic but, nevertheless, the unique position remains. This is discussed in detail in Annex A, but the assumption in this memorandum is that, once military spending is accounted for, Government space spending is approximately half a typical nation and still the lowest of any nation.

  2.0.2  However it is not the case that Britain has a uniform under-spending of all aspects space activity. In fact, in the science and applications areas the UK spending is very similar to that of other nations. The sole difference is that (as intimated above) the current British policy on space infrastructure is one of non-involvement leading to almost no spending whatsoever on this area. This in itself leads to the UK spending discrepancy.

  2.0.3  There is a very small amount identified by the BNSC as infrastructure under launch vehicles. This consists of some support for the launch site at Kourou in French Guiana which is an obligation of ESA membership and it is unclear the degree to which UK industry gets "just retour" on this money. There is a small contribution (around 1 per cent) to the various Ariane programmes. It is an important point that UK entry to both the original Ariane programme, and to the Ariane 5 programme, was long after the programme had been initiated (in the case of Ariane 5 the first vehicle was actually on the launch pad before Britain joined). As a consequence the UK expertise was not able to influence or contribute to the development of European space infrastructure. A further point is that since its foundation the BNSC has ensured no government money has been made available to support any UK indigenous work on space infrastructure development.

  2.0.4  This infrastructure policy has a devastating effect on the space engineering industry—an effect far greater than simply spending the equivalent of a half typical nation's budgets would suggest. A typical nation spends 0.1 per cent of its GDP on government civil space activity and, although there are variations in detail between nations, broadly the spending splits half and half between applications and direct investment in infrastructure and space technology.

  2.0.5  In rough figures an applications programme would typically spend a quarter of its budget on procuring the space segment, a quarter on launching the space segment, and the remaining half on the applications activities itself—which of course is money that goes to the customer industry and not the aerospace industry.

  2.0.6  Given that currently commercial applications account for business roughly equal to that provided by the government then a typical national spending flow would look something like Figure 1.

  2.0.7  But, as already argued, in the UK the "Space Infrastructure and Space Technology Development" investment is missing. So this money does not go to the UK aerospace industry. The consequence of this omission is that the UK aerospace industry has no launcher or other infrastructure services to offer, so both Government and civil applications programmes procure these services overseas, further compounding the loss of business for the UK aerospace industry. So in the UK the corresponding pattern of spending looks like Figure 2.

  2.0.8  From this comparison it can readily be seen that globally the aerospace industry can expect to directly benefit from about three-quarters of a civil space spending twice that of Britain in GDP terms. Whereas British aerospace industry can expect one quarter of a half sized budget that is one sixth the level of GDP support as its overseas rivals.

  2.0.9  In other words a doubling of the space budget with a typical pattern of spend would have a six fold improvement in the support to the British space engineering industry. Further the current spending is restricted to direct applications, which is not so suitable in building generic product lines for further exploitation in the commercial sector. A typical pattern of spend would improve the industry capability to develop new products and expand into new economic areas.

  2.0.10  Another clear deduction from the spending comparison is that in the applications area the British Government and industry activity are comparable with that of other nations. And it is this comparison that UK Government studies and policy statements highlight. However the applications interests are customers of the space component of the aerospace industry and not the space industry itself. As this discussion highlights the space industry is very detrimentally impacted by this Government prohibition on infrastructure spending.

  2.0.11  In the USA space accounts for a quarter the total aerospace turnover a figure that is growing, in a typical industrialised nation it accounts for between 10 per cent and 20 per cent and is also growing, in Britain it is 2 per cent and falling. Further it should be borne in mind that the demand for space products is the fastest growing sector in the global aerospace industry. Annex A provides sources and further discussion of these figures.

  2.0.12  If the policy intention in the 1960's was to restrict the growth of UK space engineering it must be deemed a great success. The Plowden report estimated that space accounted for just under 1 per cent of the aerospace labour force and 2 per cent of the total aerospace turnover, to within measurement error of where it now is 35 years later. And we have the circumstances of the world's second biggest aerospace nation spending a quarter of its space budget (civil and military) importing its launch services.

  2.0.13  I argue in the introduction that the policy on space infrastructure policy lies at the core at any nation's space policy. Even though the United Kingdom has tried to avoid all involvement in (and even discussion of) the subject, it remains the key feature that drives and distinguishes the British space industry. The spending pattern illustrated in Figure 2 accounts for:

    —  the UK having the lowest civil space spending, based on GDP of any nation (less than half the industrialised nation average);

    —  the UK having the lowest space component of overall aerospace industry (one tenth of a typical aerospace industry);

    —  why UK space customers (applications) see things very differently from the UK aeronautics industry;

    —  why in an international context the UK is judged a space "pariah".

  2.0.14  Of course being different from other nations is not the same as being wrong. The space industry cannot assume that just because other nations support their space industries the UK should do the same without reason. To make the argument for such involvement requires rationales related to Government responsibilities within society. Such rationales have been used by the UK space industry to justify the contention that the UK government should invest in the space infrastructure.


  3.0.1  Although many arguments of space infrastructure involvement with different detail have been put to the BNSC since its foundation, there is an underlying consistency to the industry position that have been summarised for the BNSC in the form of three core rationales. These encompass and provide the foundation logic of the specific arguments of those in the UK arguing for involvement in space infrastructure. During meetings the BNSC had verbally queried whether these rationales were all its responsibility and the position was clarified in 1997 in correspondence from Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP (then President of the Board of Trade) (Annex B). This makes clear all these issues are within the responsibility of the BNSC.

  3.0.2  However before exploring these rationales that have been used, it needs to be made clear there are other rationales that have not been used by UK infrastructure interests. Two in particular are used in other countries, but have not been used in the UK. However despite the fact that these are not arguments presented to the Government, the BNSC still seems to use dismissal of them as reasons not to act.

National Prestige

  3.0.3  Many nations still conduct space infrastructure activity with a view to increasing prestige and highlighting the capabilities of their high tech industries. It has been clear that since the 1960's the UK Government has not accepted this as a reason for investment and it has not been offered as such. The consensus view of the UK space infrastructure community is that, while national prestige is a consequence of successful space infrastructure developments, if such projects aim at prestige they get over-ambitious and do not end up as effective operational systems—even if they can be made to work at all. Thus prestige driven projects more often than not end up being counter productive embarrassments—for example as happened to the French led Hermes aerospaceplane.


  3.0.4  An argument for space activity generally (and often infrastructure activity in particular) is that the technical knowledge obtained "spins off" into other areas producing valuable products outside the space industry. This argument has many weaknesses for example: all major development projects in any field have spin-off and there is no evidence that space is in anyway better than non-space projects in this regard. Also it is not always clear the degree the spin-off is the main reason (let alone the only reason) that the attributed spin off development actually happened. Spin off as a conscious rationale has a history of driving infrastructure projects into technical approaches that are inappropriate for the infrastructure role that is intended. For this reason the BNSC have been warned on a number of occasions that consideration of spin-off should not enter into policy decision making. It is therefore depressing to note that the Government directed it was to be a rationale in evaluating the UK possible entry into the ESA Future Launcher Technology Programme.

  3.0.5  The following sub-sections address each of the three main rationales in turn. This is intended to introduce the arguments and provide a flavour of the evidence behind them. It will not provide complete material that would be available to any policy evaluation, as this is not practical. The purpose is to illustrate the level and nature of the material that was either presented to the BNSC, or would have been available had serious evaluation activities been undertaken.

3.1  Rationale 1: Good Management of Government Resources

Launch Vehicles:

  3.1.1  The next key advance that can be expected in the development of the space infrastructure is the introduction of fully reusable launch systems. British thinking has been at the forefront of this movement with the BAe HOTOL project that highlighted the technical feasibility and that the development of advanced reusable launchers could be a largely commercial activity. However it also found that it could not be a solely commercial activity and required a small Government involvement early in the programme to secure the few billion pounds needed for the complete development from commercial sources.

  3.1.2  In the case of launch systems it is possible to show that this level of public investment can be justified solely on the reduced launch costs that the Government would later enjoy. This point was made several times to the BNSC typically in the manner shown in figure 3. This shows the annual spend if a £150 million investment in Reusable Launch Vehicle development was to be made. It assumes the majority of the investment is in the first four years, consistent with Government investment to reduce risk in a primarily commercial programme (the worst funding pattern). It assumes a 6 per cent annual rate of return (in accordance with Treasury guidelines (2)) on the cumulative spend over the £60 million annual average spent by the UK Government on purchasing expendable launchers. Further assumptions are the Reusable Launch Vehicle is phased in over four years from Year 9 and that the cost reduction per launch is reduced to one fifth the expendable costs (a conservative estimate). This shows the breakeven point, achieved through savings in Government launches, is reached by Year 15.

Manned Spaceflight:

  3.1.3  So for launch systems there is a very clear case for good management of the public purse in that UK Government investment in such a programme can be directly recovered in launch cost savings. However, due to the differing maturity of launchers and manned systems and the fact that there is no current UK use of manned facilities, there is a different argument on manned spaceflight.

  3.1.4  The starting point in this argument is to explore the common assumption—and the only reason BNSC publicly state that UK participation is not desirable—that manned spaceflight is significantly more expensive than unmanned spaceflight. The corollary is that it is therefore only justifiable in terms of national prestige. However this perception does not withstand scrutiny. The cost effective aspects of manned space infrastructures, while not widely understood, have been emphasised to the BNSC on a number of occasions and should be understood by them.

  3.1.5  Comparisons between manned and unmanned approaches are not easy due to the different manner in which they are used. However a comparison can be made between science satellites and manned science missions on a cost per experimental activity performed. Figure 4 presents the results of such a study and shows that manned missions on this basis achieve very similar costs to unmanned missions. While the range is wide in both cases there is really no way to argue one is cheaper or more expensive than the other.

  3.1.6  It is therefore wrong to argue that UK scientists whose work requires access to manned facilities should be barred on the grounds their work would be inherently more expensive than scientists requiring unmanned systems. There is already pressure from such users to allow UK access to such facilities, therefore even though UK is the last major nation to eschew using manned space facilities this is unlikely to continue indefinitely. Britain will eventually need to exploit manned space infrastructures for both its unique capabilities and its cost effectiveness. Indeed the recent announcement of a very late, and very small, entry into ESA's EMIR-2 programme (which covers scientific use of microgravity facilities both manned and unmanned) is a possible start to this trend. So just as with launch systems the UK will end as customers for manned systems and if the current policy is pursued then this will involve importing services from other nations over which we have no control of cost, or terms, or availability.

  3.1.7  Although current manned facilities are competitive with unmanned, there is evidence that there is considerable scope for reduction in the cost of the manned infrastructure. This would require use of more appropriate technologies and architectures and could possibly reduce infrastructure acquisition costs by almost an order of magnitude. Further when the impact of Reusable Launch Vehicle are considered on total project costs it is found it has much more significant impact on manned systems than unmanned. This is primarily due to a larger fraction of the total cost being due to launches in the case of manned systems.

  3.1.8  The overall scope for short term achievable manned infrastructure cost reductions is a full order of magnitude. On unmanned systems it is no more than a third. Further manned spaceflight offers increased flexibility in scheduling and maintenance. It is clear that with Reusable Launch Vehicle manned infrastructure will be normal and unmanned only used in specialist applications. It is not credible that in the light of these advantages the UK Government spending will sustain its current policy and remain only on unmanned programmes.

  3.1.9  Despite this point being made many times the BNSC has not yet conducted any proper appraisal of manned spaceflight involvement since its foundation. The only decision relating to manned infrastructure taken during the recent policy review was on a response to a NASA offer for direct participation in the International Space Station. The request to review this came from the Prime Minister's office and the impression the BNSC gave was that it was an unwelcome distraction. As the extended correspondence in Annex C illustrates, the BNSC certainly did not undertake a full evaluation, using the ROAME process, which the funding implications would have suggested. Further, no UK expertise on space stations was involved in the decision process in any manner. There is no credible way this decision on the US offer can be regarded as an objective evaluation and, since that is all there is, the UK position on manned spaceflight must be regarded as based on a profoundly flawed, biased and uncertain policy generation process.

3.2  Rationale 2: Ensuring Strategic Commercial Interests

  3.2.1  Britain was one of the earliest users of spaceflight for scientific purposes. Indeed it was the first nation outside the USA and Soviet Union to construct a satellite (Ariel 1 launch in 1963 by USA). However Britain has been somewhat less timely in its involvement in space applications, and this despite a national programme with the sole objective of exploiting them. As examples, the initiation of a programme to get UK systems expertise in telecommunications satellites (in the 1970s) came almost a decade after the first geostationary communications satellites had been launched. The policy to get UK involvement in earth observation from orbit (in the mid eighties) was the best part of two decades after the launch of the first civil earth observation satellites. The recent interest in space based navigation systems comes more than a decade after the establishing of the GPS system.

  3.2.2  Yet each time Britain starts an initiative in space applications the Government portrays it as get into a new cutting edge field. Partly this is normal and understandable salesmanship of the new initiatives, but it is also partly the result of real ignorance of the emerging space applications. Only when other nations have working systems in place does it seem to enter the consciousness of the British Government. The emergence of such new applications normally happens within the space engineering industry and I would argue the slow understanding of the potential of new applications by the Government is yet another consequence of its self imposed exclusion from the space infrastructure community.

  3.2.3  This lack of foresight is in part responsible for the somewhat disappointing commercial performance of the UK industries utilising space. It also follows that Britain will continue to be late and less successful market entrants to new applications so long as we exclude ourselves from space infrastructure activities and the culture that surrounds them.

  3.2.4  There are many new space applications emerging in whole new categories. With the existing space infrastructure based on expendable launch systems, the high costs make only applications whose product is data viable. That is either the production of data through science and earth observation satellites, or the transmission of data through telecommunications satellites. With the substantial cost reductions that can be expected due to the introduction of Reusable Launch Vehicles and new approaches to manned spaceflight, non-data related applications would become viable. Two applications that have been well explored both in academic thinking and in preparatory technical work, and seem to have almost immediate viability, are space tourism (also called public access) and space energy generation.

  3.2.5  The potential size of both these applications is enormous. The growth of tourism made feasible by civil aircraft has made it the largest single economic sector in the global economy, and the role the energy generation industry plays in the overall economy is obvious. The space segment of both these industries is likely to be large—especially energy generation. It is possible the vast majority of mankind's energy generation will soon have to come from this source.

  3.2.6  Other industries that might arise include space manufacturing, space mining, and space waste disposal. The degree to which these are viable, and their potential size, is solely dependent on the cost structure of the space infrastructure that supports them. If further cost reductions in addition to those that can be envisaged in the first generation Reusable Launch Vehicles are possible (and there is no reason to believe they are not) then space based economic activity could be the biggest single sector in the total human economy. While it would be difficult to argue any nation is currently well prepared for this eventuality, the situation in the UK is particularly disadvantageous to the exploitation of the wealth generating potential of an expanded space economy. If the current conditions continue Britain can expect to be completely sidelined in this area, with effectively no involvement except importing the space goods and services that other nations provide.

  3.2.7  Given the general tenor of the Government's space policy, it will probably argue that, if this scenario plays out, that Britain will be able to earn its keep in the global economy by other economic sectors. This argument has two flaws. The first flaw is that the current world class aerospace industry in the UK gives us a clear and obvious advantage in establishing a large presence of the overall space economy. Britain's industrial base means it is actually better placed to exploit this opportunity than any other "sunrise" economic sector. It is difficult to see how a nation that, as an act of policy, refuses to exploit its economic strengths, is going to pay its way in the world trading on its economic weaknesses.

  3.2.8  The second flaw in the argument is that it fails to appreciate the scale and persuasiveness of the space economy. For example, if the cheapest and only environmental acceptable way of generating power is through space based systems then, of necessity, Britain will be getting essentially all its energy through this route. Without any UK involvement in the energy generating system, or the infrastructure supporting it, outside interests will have complete control of Britain's energy supply with the consequent political and economic power.

  3.2.9  Thus the second rationale is that it is in Britain's clear interest to use its existing and proven industrial advantage in aerospace engineering to secure a fair (or maybe a little bit more than fair) share of the growing space economy. This will enable economic growth within the affected industries, which, as current space applications show, is much wider than simply aerospace itself. It will also enable Britain to secure some level of control over energy and resource supplies to the advantage of the whole national economy.

3.3  Rationale 3: Dealing with Global Catastrophe

  3.3.1  Humanity has a constant risk of global scale catastrophe from either "Critical" events (risking extermination of humanity) or "Sub-Critical" events (causing death of more than 10 per cent of humanity and risking collapse of civilised society). This risk has two components: a background risk of constant probability caused by natural disasters; and risks caused by human activity which are continually increasing in probability.

  3.3.2  The background risk of critical or sub-critical events due to natural causes is not widely understood, yet these have a significant probability and should be considered in any policy generation process. While potentially critical events are currently understood to be typically separated by several tens of millions of years, sub-critical events are only separated by around a thousand years. There have been two sub-critical events in recorded human history, one in the 6th century and the other in the 14th century. While the initiating events in each case are still the subject of debate in both cases, between a quarter and a half the global population died through a combination of famine, plague, and war. Societies, if not destroyed, were badly impacted, and the aftermath lasted centuries.

  3.3.3  There is a much wider understanding of the risk caused by expanding human population and economic activity. This expansion places strains on both the resources required to sustain society (food, water, raw materials and energy) and on the environment due to its waste products. These problems are widely acknowledged within the global political and governmental process generally, although there is little being implemented that constitute effective resolutions to these problems.


Space Response
Background Events:
Caldera Volcanoes
Asteroid/Comet Impact
Intercept and deflection
Variations in Solar Constant
Space heat/energy supply
Interstellar Events
Life science research
Space heat/energy supply
Human Events:
Space strategic defence
Space agriculture production
Resource Depletion
Space resources
Off-load and space dumping
Energy Crunch
Space energy generation
Terrestrial Infrastructure Loss
Space Infra elements
Economic Collapse
Expand and diversify

  Figure 5:  List of Potential Catastrophic Events and Potential Space Response

  3.3.4  Figure 5 lists the potentially catastrophic events that could be judged credible on the basis of refereed academic publications. They are split into those natural events that happen regardless of human activity and those that are directly caused by human action. The table also highlights their potential role in a catastrophe. These are:

    —  Initiator—that is an event that can trigger the catastrophe;

    —  Agent—that is an event that leads to human death;

    —  Vector—that is an event caused by an initiating event that triggers other agents.

  3.3.5  As the table hints the dynamics of global scale catastrophes are complex with a single initiating event invoking several vectors and hence many agents. So no one agent ends up causing all the death. It follows that planning responses to such catastrophes should be complex and involve many different actions and provisions. It is not claimed that space capability alone can be a sole and sufficient preparation but it is claimed that without space capability on a considerably enlarged scale no effective response to these global threats is possible. The table outlines typical space systems that could respond to each of the events.

  3.3.6  In the case of background threat events only asteroid impact has received serious consideration by the space community—made more public in recent years. The high probability of other global scale initiating events and the possible space response has not been examined. Since my own appreciation of this issue is only of a couple of years standing I believe it would be unreasonable to expect BNSC to have fully appraised it in their policy deliberations.

  3.3.7  However that is not the case with space industrialisation as a response to threat events caused by human activity. All the events listed and the space response to them have had a wide discussion throughout the space industry for many decades and since its foundation the BNSC has been advised to consider this important aspect of space infrastructure development. There was some initial reluctance to accept that the matter was within their remit but as Annex B[1] makes clear this point is now resolved. Given their clear responsibility it is regrettable to report that there is no evidence of any significant appraisal activity on any issues related to the events listed in figure 5. Yet despite this apparent lack of appraisal activity the BNSC claim the Minister (then Mr John Battle) was fully briefed on these issues and their importance (3). If an objective Ministerial briefing has been given it leaves me totally bewildered as to why no part of the UK space policy addresses the issue, and why the BNSC seem unable to provide any explanation for this state of affairs.


  4.0.1  Although overtly ignored in UK Government space policy generation, infrastructure remains at the heart of British astronautics, as it is, by definition, the key to all space activity. The failure to properly address the issues has been very detrimental to British interest in the past and will increasingly impact in the future.

  4.0.2  This memorandum has highlighted that the British position on space infrastructure is unique in the industrialised world—a fact made even more bizarre by the world class position of the British aerospace industry. The lack of any support for launchers and manned spaceflight is the core of all the substantial differences between Britain's and other industrialised nation's civil space activity. The results include the UK having the lowest GDP civil space expenditure, with a consequent suppression of growth within the space sector of the overall aerospace industry.

  4.0.3  This memorandum has also highlighted the key rationales that have been presented to the Government through the BNSC for involvement. Each of these rationales is a clear concern of the Government and are supported by considerable evidence—evidence that is of greater weight and detail than that provided in the ROAMEs generated by the BNSC for non infrastructure programmes.

  4.0.4  It is therefore a matter of continuing concern and frustration that not only does the prohibition on any British involvement continue but that the policy process has no identifiable appraisal or evaluation activities to support the Government's decisions. It seems inconceivable that a UK Government policy that:

    —  is demonstrated to currently have a major distorting influence on the nation's biggest exporting industry;

    —  in the future will have an adverse impact on the economic viability of the country;

    —  will affect whether humanity and its civilisation can survive,

      can be sustained without any justification whatsoever. Yet this is precisely the UK situation on space infrastructure.

  4.0.5  In support of the contention there is no justification I would draw the Committee's attention to the correspondence in Annex C1. Not only has no appraisal or evaluation of manned spaceflight been undertaken but the BNSC also claims the ROAME process was not used in the decisions on launch systems. Such scraps of facts and analysis the BNSC has produced show that all inputs from UK interests have been ignored and judgements from other European nations used even though these are highly controversial and strongly contested, not least by all British experts.

  4.0.6  I acknowledge that the BNSC might have some structural problems with dealing with these issues. Although its responsibilities on the subject have been made clear, none of its partner organisations have a remit to deal with the subjects. Therefore there is a problem that the BNSC does not have immediate access to either expertise or potential funding for space infrastructure activity. This has always been understood and is an issue, and one which the space engineering community have been willing to help the BNSC work around in order to achieve a long term resolution.

  4.0.7  However in my long experience in dealing with the BNSC there has never been a willingness on its side to even acknowledge that any problem of any kind exists regarding the UK space infrastructure, let alone the need to take any action to address it. Dealings with the BNSC have always been polite and on a business like basis. However the complete failure of the BNSC:

    —  to take any action to readdress the situation;

    —  to review, appraise, or evaluate any UK generated infrastructure proposals at any level;

    —  or to even acknowledge UK expert opinions in such material that is produced,

      sends a clear message. They believe that those who persist in pursuing space infrastructure objectives in the UK are "de facto" on the lunatic fringe (by implication this logic would then apply to every other space programme in the world!). It follows they believe their opinions can be safely ignored—which is precisely what the BNSC seems to have done.

  4.0.8  And history would suggest it is safe to ignore this issue. Since the 1960s many eminent bodies and persons have pressed the Government on this issue (4). These submissions have always been ignored and in many cases not even acknowledged. In 1987 the Select Committee of the House of Lords held an enquiry into the UK Space Policy (5). It drew many positive conclusions, including recommendations on UK involvement in space infrastructure issues, all of which were ignored. Indeed I am not aware of any submission to the UK Government or other discussion of UK space policy by any organisation or persons with infrastructure expertise, at any time, which endorses the policy the Government pursues. Yet the policy remains and remains unexplained and unjustified.

  4.0.9  This memorandum has presented the arguments that in the case of space infrastructure there is, by any practical definition, no policy generation mechanism in place. A unique and complete prohibition of British work in this important field is apparently sustained on the basis of pure prejudice within the Civil Service. If the committee's inquiry finds this to be the case then serious doubts must be raised about the validity of the policy and its desirability for the national good.

1 March 2000

1   Not printed. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 13 July 2000