Select Committee on Science and Technology Seventh Report


5  THE UK SPACE INDUSTRY

Overview

130. The UK space industry can be divided into upstream and downstream sectors as illustrated in Diagram 2. The upstream encompasses the provision of technology such as space prime contractor, contract R&D, space component supplier, and space subsystems. The downstream covers the exploitation of technology such as satellite broadcast services, Earth observation, financial services and satellite communications. The most dominant area in terms of economic value is satellite communications and the UK has particular strengths in Earth observation, navigation and positioning.

Diagram 2: The UK Space Sector


Source: BNSC, Size and health of the UK space industry 2006: Executive Summary, p 4

131. The downstream industry in the UK is in money terms approximately five times as large as the upstream industry. [225] In 2004-2005 the downstream sector had a turnover of £4.1 billion compared to the upstream sector turnover of £725 million.[226] But many submissions drew attention to the importance of the link between the upstream and the downstream, i.e. between the technology providers and the users. UK Space told us that "The downstream business benefits strongly from having a vibrant upstream sector in the UK, as this enables the UK community to influence market direction, definition and adoption of standards and regulatory controls, and to be positioned to recognize and move rapidly to exploit new business opportunities."[227] QinetiQ emphasised that it was important for the UK to maintain capabilities in both sectors, saying that "downstream activity (such as commercial satellite operators) and associated skills will over time relocate to where the upstream activity is."[228]

132. The industrial landscape has changed in the UK over the last decade (paragraph 110).The UK upstream is now characterised by one large pan-European company, Astrium, with a base in the UK, and a number of SMEs. In Britain, Astrium directly employs more than 2,500 people at its key sites in Portsmouth, Poynton and Stevenage. This is more than half of the total direct manufacturing workforce in UK space.[229] The downstream is similarly dominated by one company: BSkyB.

133. There have been several recent reports on the state of the UK industry. Since 1991, the BNSC has undertaken surveys of the size and health of the UK space industry, the latest of which, undertaken by Bramshill Consultancy Ltd. was published in January 2006.[230] The BNSC has also undertaken a Space Sector Mapping Study in order to gain a comprehensive picture of the nature of UK space industry. This study will be complemented by an economic evaluation of the impact of past DTI investments in space and a paper focused on forward strategy. In June 2006, Oxford Economic Forecasting produced a report commissioned by EADS Astrium, which was subsequently publicised as the Case4Space in a summary report and executive summary produced by the trade association UK Space.[231]

134. These reports have all contributed towards building an accurate picture of the UK space industry on which we can draw. Oxford Economic Forecasting stated that:

    the UK space industry directly contributed around £2.4 billion to UK GDP in 2004/05. This means that it is comparable in size with the web design industry and larger than the market research industry, [or] software publishing.[232]

UK GDP in 2004-05 was £1,200 billion. The space industry thus directly contributed approximately 0.2% to GDP. In addition, the industry helps to facilitate improvements in other sectors that also contribute to the economy. These effects are referred to as 'spillover'. Examples of spillover include the impact of the use of satellites in weather forecasting, communications and navigation. According to the DTI, the latest estimate indicated that the UK space industry supported a value-added contribution to GDP in the region of £5.2 billion.[233]

135. Due to the variety of potential applications for space technologies, in particular satellites, the space industry is experiencing a period of growth. The global downstream industry, for example, was valued at over $100 billion in 2005 and is growing at around 10% per annum.[234] The Oxford Economic Forecasting report states that the UK space industry has also grown "by around 10% a year since 1999/00."[235] The table below shows how that growth has been divided between upstream and downstream sectors.Table 8: Evolution of upstream and downstream real space turnover

Year
Downstream turnover/£ million
% change
Upstream Turnover/£ million
% change
Total
% change
1999-00
2,489
  
480
  
2,969
  
2000-01
2,970
19.3
470
-2.1
3,440
15.9
2001-02
3,292
10.8
539
14.7
3,831
11.4
2002-03
3,602
9.4
531
-1.5
4,133
7.9
2003-04
3,885
7.9
700
31.8
4,585
10.9
2004-05
4,102
5.6
725
3.6
4,827
5.3
Average % change
  
10.5 %
  
8.6%
  
10.2%

Source: BNSC Size and Health of UK Space Industry 2006

136. The average change across the downstream and upstream has been 10.2%. It is worth noting, however, that the overall average percentage change in the upstream industry is 8.6% and that the annual turnover has been slightly erratic, with growth in 2001-02, 2003-04 and 2004-05 but reductions in 2000-01 and 2002-03. Furthermore, although the downstream market has increased on average by 10.5%, the rate of year-on-year growth has slowed each year since 2000.

137. The space sector is a high-tech industry that employs highly skilled workers. In 2004-05, the UK space industry employed 17,560 people, with an average GDP per worker of £135,000.[236] Of the overall space workforce, 57% are graduates.[237] There is a concern that the UK is not able to supply enough skilled workers to the sector, especially given its anticipated growth. The BNSC report, The Size and Health of the UK Space Industry, noted that "Almost half of the companies reported a shortage of specific skills. The main shortages identified were in a range of engineering disciplines, and physics."[238] We return to the issue of skills in more detail in the following chapter (paragraph 180).

138. The space industry also contributes to the UK's spend on R&D. In 2004-05, R&D spend in the space industry was £300 million.[239] The BNSC found that upstream companies spend on average 2.5% of turnover on R&D from their own resources. When externally funded R&D is included, this figure rises to 14.1%. Downstream companies are less R&D focused, spending 3.1% of turnover on average themselves and 4.3% when external resources are included.[240]

139. We have been impressed during this inquiry by the ambition and focus of UK industry. Astrium claimed that "The UK Space industry is a leader in one of the most strategic hi-tech sectors in the world."[241] Mr David Williams of Avanti told us that "in areas of space technology we are genuinely world-beaters".[242] He explained that in order to be competitive the UK had had to focus on the high-tech areas of the market because it could not compete against countries like China in the low cost, lower tech areas because of labour costs. [243] The then Minister for Science and Innovation, Malcolm Wicks MP told us that he thought that the industry was in a healthy state and that it was necessary "to make sure that Britain has its fair share and perhaps more than its fair share commercially of this very, very, exciting market."[244] We are impressed by the range of activities undertaken by the UK space industry and by its ambition to remain world-leading. We welcome the work that BNSC has undertaken in this area in order to track the health of the industry and recommend that such studies continue.

Government support for the space industry

140. Despite its healthy state, the space industry has several characteristics which lead it to rely upon Government seedcorn funding. First, space technologies are often high risk and there is a long lead time between initial R&D and wealth-creation.[245] Sir Martin Sweeting, Chief Executive of Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) explained that "It is only the Government really that has the opportunity to provide that initial seedcorn to try to de-risk it to the level where 10 years later, possibly then, the financial markets and the market itself start to take over".[246] Second, because of the value of space technology applications and the status of the space industry as high tech, many countries such as the US and France are investing strategically in their space industries. To remain competitive it is necessary for the UK also to invest strategically and in this climate, the UK space industry describes Government support as "critical".[247]

141. During this inquiry we have come across some examples of successful outcomes from seedcorn funding. David Williams, Chief Executive of Avanti told us that "a tiny amount of ARTES funding eight or nine years ago resulted in the creation of a company whose forecast revenues over the next 15 years are £600 million based on just a first satellite".[248] The Chief Executive of SSTL related the history of his own company:

    In the 1980s, the research councils invested a small amount of money into investigating the possibilities of small satellites at a time when satellites were getting bigger and bigger and small satellites were considered, at the very best, a mild form of lunacy, so that investment of about £3/4 million over a period of 15 or more years have created a new small satellite industry which is now within the UK generating something in the region of about £120 million in exports.[249]

These examples indicate that seedcorn funding can successfully stimulate business development. We also note, however, that the nature of seedcorn funding means that other projects may not be as successful as these examples and we have not received sufficient evidence to comment on the ratio of success to failure in this area. At present, there are a number of different funding mechanisms by which the Government can enable such funding, which we explore below.

INDUSTRIAL FUNDING THROUGH ESA PROGRAMMES

142. Under ESA's industrial policy, the UK space industry can expect a return from investment in ESA programmes (paragraph 107). Industry is thus keen that the UK Government invest as heavily as possible in such programmes, two key examples of which are ARTES, which has relied on investment from industry and DTI, and Alphasat, which is reliant upon public investment through RDAs.

ARTES (Advanced Research into Telecommunications)

143. The Advanced Research in Telecommunications Support (ARTES) programme was established by the ESA in the mid 1990s and is the main way that the ESA supports applied technology development for space and ground segment equipment. The UK, through investment originally made by the DTI, currently participates in four elements of ARTES:

Under the ARTES rules, investment by the Government can be matched by industry but industrial contributions cannot exceed government contributions.

144. ESA told us that ARTES "is widely recognised as an effective tool for the support and benefit of the UK and its industry".[250] The DTI highlighted several successes due to funding from the ARTES programme: for example, ARTES investment in processing technology enabled EADS Astrium to offer a competitive advantage to Inmarsat during the procurement of Inmarsat-4 satellite, "one of the most complex satellites ever built".[251] The ARTES programme often provides seedcorn funding for projects such as Avanti's ABARIS project which delivers multimedia content to consumers via satellite. In 1998 the company had fewer than 15 employees and now the screenmedia service itself employs approximately 90 staff.[252] Avanti told us that "ARTES has been found to be far superior to participation in the EC's Framework Programmes as it is more responsive and targeted more closely towards the market's needs."[253]

145. The Government's investment in ARTES has varied due to changing ESA subscriptions. The Government agreed subscriptions in November 2001 and December 2005.

Table 9: ARTES funding 2000-2006 (€ million)

  
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
Total
ARTES 1
0.97
0.68
2.05
1.83
1.18
3.59
2.11
2.8
2.0
1.1
0
12.41
ARTES 3
15.86
7.24
17.60
14.46
3.48
16.06
14.90
17.7
9.9
10.1
9.8
89.60
ARTES 4
5.30
3.13
13.29
8.33
7.59
9.16
11.64
7.7
7.5
7.6
7.4
58.44
ARTES 8 [254]
  
  
  
  
  
  
1.89
1.4
0.9
1.0
0.6
1.89
Total
22.13
11.95
32.93
24.62
12.25
28.81
30.54
29.6
20.3
19.8
17.8
162.34

Source: BNSC, Ev 360, 382

146. Colin Paynter from EADS Astrium told us that the level of subscription that was agreed in December 2005 "was very disappointing to me because it is an area that has shown tremendous return and all the indications are that there could be really strong wealth-creation returns in the future".[255]Astrium pointed out that the UK's subscription of €22.7 million is low compared to the €112 million subscribed by France, €75 million by Spain, €70 million by Italy, and €56 million by Belgium.[256] UK Space has claimed that ARTES generates returns of 7:1 and that if investment in ARTES is reduced, then the impact will be the loss of UK technology capability, direct and indirect job losses, and a threat to UK competitiveness in this area.[257]

147. EADS Astrium has recommended that the Government increases funding for ARTES to £30 million (approximately €44 million) a year.[258] Colin Paynter from EADS Astrium explained that the space industry had developed this figure by looking at spend profile and technology developments over the next five years and working backwards to a corresponding level of investment in ARTES. The request was supported by Avanti, who argued that "a reinvigorated UK participation in the programme will continue to bring exceptional returns for UK industry and provide further significant opportunities for exports in space products and services."[259]

148. The ARTES programme is important to the UK space industry because it provides vital seedcorn funding for high-risk, early stage R&D. Investment in this programme should produce high returns. We recommend that the Government review its subscription to the ARTES programme before the end of the year.

Alphasat

149. Within ARTES increasing priority is given to large programmes such as Alphasat, which is designed to develop the next generation of telecommunication satellites from 2010 onwards. Alphasat will use an ESA-developed satellite platform known as Alphabus, and ESA is offering European operators the opportunity to fly a payload of their choice on the platform alongside commercial and technology demonstration payloads. It is therefore free for the successful operator. Inmarsat is proposing a satellite that would support new and improved broadband services, particularly to developing countries. For Inmarsat's proposal to be eligible, the UK has to inject £35 million into the programme over a four year period. Inmarsat told us that "The £35 million of public money invested in this ESA programme would generate an immediate benefit of €100 million (~£70 million) from the free Alphabus platform."[260] The BNSC has said that the proposal, if accepted, would put the UK at the forefront of satellite telecommunications activities world-wide.[261]

150. If Inmarsat were to be successful in its bid, operational revenues would flow into London and the surrounding regions.[262] The BNSC has taken a novel approach to funding this and has worked with relevant Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) on supporting the project. The three RDAs involved - the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), and the London Development Agency (LDA) - have agreed to commit £12 million each over a three year period. These contributions will be supplemented by an investment of £6 million from DTI.

151. We congratulate the BNSC on its innovative approach to finding funding for the Alphasat programme. We recommend that the BNSC involve RDAs in funding ESA missions in future when there is likely to be specific regional benefit.

SUPPORT AT A NATIONAL LEVEL

152. Until 2003, the DTI had a national programme, with funds delegated by DTI to BNSC, to support technology, including some work to enable UK industry to prepare for ESA programmes through initiatives such as MOSAIC and SatCom. In 2001/02, for example, the DTI provided support for Applications Technology Support (£7 million), Microsatellite Applications in Collaboration (£7.6 million), a National Satellite Communications Programme (£3 million), and a National Earth Observation Programme (£2.2 million).[263]

153. In 2001, the DTI undertook a review of its business support schemes. This recommended that the numerous small technology support schemes within DTI should be channelled into the Technology Strategy budget held and disbursed by the Technology Strategy Board. As illustrated in Table 10, this left the DTI with a small budget for national expenditure, "principally directed towards the provision of technical support and advice to BNSC on a range of issues covering UK civil space interests where capability was not available in-house."[264]

Table 10: BNSC DTI National Expenditure on Space /£ million

Year
2000-01
2001-02
2002-03
2003-04
2004-05
2005-06
2006-07
TOTAL
Expenditure £ million
18.2
20.2
26.7
5.5
6.6
4.9
3.1
82.1

Source: BNSC, Ev 361

154. The shift of funds from the DTI national programme to the Technology Strategy budget was explored in November 2004 by the Public Accounts Committee. Sir Robin Young, the then Permanent Secretary at DTI, told the Committee that

    We now have a technology budget into which space firms have to compete with other firms, so we are backing business and we are business-led. So if, say, the communications sector puts in investment in broadband ahead of investment in space, broadband might win.[265]

It appears that this change has not benefited the space industry. Since 2004, there have been no projects with space as the primary exploitation route in the Technology Calls managed by the DTI Technology Programme.[266] The DTI's evidence noted that small and medium-sized enterprises have suffered in particular.[267]

155. The lack of a national programme was raised as a matter of concern by industry. ABSL Space Products told us that "the lack of a BNSC National Programme during the last few years, that in the past supported the risky early development activities needed to compete for the ESA programmes, has reduced UK companies' competitiveness."[268] UK Space commented that "The UK has no portfolio of national space projects to help maintain its indigenous technology leads, unlike many competitor nations, and the BNSC has little or no discretionary funding to allow it the flexibility to support technology projects."[269]

156. The BNSC has plans to develop a National Space Technology Programme to meets its concerns that "current activities are both too dispersed and that the overall annual funding level is insufficient."[270] The CCLRC, now STFC, put a bid into the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007 for £18 million for this programme.[271] The BNSC then aims to align the new fund with existing national programmes to create a coherent overall programme. We deal with the particulars of this programme in Chapter 6. However, here we note that we are concerned by the impact upon the space industry of the shift of funds from the DTI national programme to the Technology Strategy Board. We welcome the attempts by the BNSC to address this problem through the National Space Technology Programme and hope that industry and academia make the most of this programme.

MOSAIC (Micro-Satellite Applications in Collaboration)

157. The MOSAIC programme has been held up as an example of good cross-Governmental working to support development at a national level. MOSAIC used funding from DTI and MoD to provide £15 million between 2000 and 2005 to fund three demonstration missions that tested small or micro-satellite technology. Funding from the MOSAIC programme led to the development of three families of satellites: the Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) for Earth observation and disaster management, TopSat for surveillance, and Gemini for telecommunications. DMC created a network of five Earth observation satellites in the UK, China, Algeria, Nigeria and Turkey that can provide imaging on a daily basis. The TopSat mission demonstrated that a micro-satellite could provide responsive high-resolution imaging. Gemini showed that a small geostationary communications satellite could be used to support a range of services such as telephone, television and radio.

158. These projects have all been successful. The DMC has been accepted to operate within the International Charter for Space and Major Disasters.[272] The success of Gemini positioned the UK to win the GIOVE-A satellite contract for the Galileo programme.[273] TopSat has shown that it can provide the required images and has demonstrated that dual-use small satellites have great potential.[274] SSTL, who were involved in all three projects, estimate that the £15 million invested by DTI has resulted in at least £80 million of economic activity in the UK.[275] Sir Martin Sweeting, Chief Executive of SSTL, told us that "the MOSAIC programme was very good at not getting bureaucratic tape wrapped around the opportunity and hence allowing the UK to make the very most of it and to create something which actually has not yet been emulated anywhere else in the world".[276]

159. SSTL emphasised to us the importance of using missions to drive technology development and suggested that the Government plan another MOSAIC initiative. [277] Air Vice-Marshal Chris Moran, Assistant Chief of the Air Staff, told us that MoD were looking to see how the TopSat programme could be developed further. He said that "We are going through a process now of evaluating just how successful that [TopSat] has been, and we have already started a dialogue inside the MoD as to what we might want to do beyond the TopSat programme. We might develop a radar sensor capability."[278] MOSAIC was clearly seen as a success by both Government and industry. We recommend that the DIUS and MoD initiate another programme as a successor to the MOSAIC programme within the next year.

ALTERNATIVE FUNDING MECHANISMS

160. Government support can also be linked to private funding. The most commonly cited example is Avanti, a public company listed on the Alternative Investment Market of the London Stock Exchange, built on a starting capital of £2,500 to create a company that is valued in excess of £76 million. This was achieved through combining funding from ESA's ARTES programme with private investment from shareholders in order to develop its Highly Adaptable Satellite (HYLAS) project. The HYLAS programme is a potential solution to the problem of unequal access to the internet through broadband in Europe. HYLAS could affect 3 million households by 2015. Avanti used a £23 million investment from ARTES 3 to raise over £50 million from private investors. Avanti explained that "the HYLAS project is a unique initiative which combines ARTES funding with a large private investment from Avanti's shareholders. The ARTES funding covers half of the costs of the research and development activities on the payload, while Avanti's investment will pay for the satellite platform, the launch and insurance."[279]

161. The ARTES funding reduced the risk of the project and provided credibility. David Williams, Chief Executive of Avanti told us that "It was very difficult for me in the early days to persuade venture capitalists that they should be investing in technology that was on a drawing board and fundamentally unproven…what we have managed to do is to get the Government to take out some of that blue-skies risk. In my own problem, it was not just the money, it was the fact that the European Space Agency and the experts of the British National Space Centre, for example, had put their imprimatur of quality on to the technology that I was buying that got the capital markets interested".[280]

162. The BNSC plans to encourage this approach. Dr David Williams, Director General of BNSC, told us that "One of things I would like to do to improve it is to get more private venture into funding space".[281] He said that "I think we need to work more on getting industry to recognise that you have to get to the point where private venture is a recognisable source of money for the development of space systems rather than it just always being government money and government money".[282]

163. There are, however, potential barriers to private investment in space technologies. First, space technologies often require a long lead time and are high risk. David Williams from Avanti told us that "The people who deploy capital want to see return today and they would far rather see some cash today than highly speculative returns in the future".[283] Secondly, the complexity of space technologies can make them difficult for external investors to understand. Dr Cross from e2v told us that "it is easy for people within the industry and with an interest to forget just how complicated this technology is; so there is an understanding issue as well as the venture capital short-term horizon on returns".[284]

164. The investment of private finance in the space industry is crucial and Government co-investment at a seedcorn level would help to attract private finance and venture capital. We acknowledge that the BNSC is already working with industry in this area. We recommend that the BNSC seek ways in which to stimulate the increase of private finance and venture capital in the field of space in its forthcoming strategy. The BNSC should elect a co-ordinator who can work with the venture capital industry in order to help companies to explain their technologies.

TARGETED SUPPORT FOR SMES

165. The UK space-industrial landscape is characterised by one large company and numerous SMEs. The DTI and the ESA both acknowledged the importance of SMEs in this sector. Miss Paula Freedman, Director of DTI Space within BNSC, described SMEs as "very important", whilst the DTI evidence elucidated that

The ESA told us that the traditional strengths of SMEs, such as innovation, ability to react and cost effectiveness, were important in the space sector and that the role of SMEs is illustrated by the fact that on average 20% of ESA R&D contracts were awarded to SMEs. [286] We recognise that the flexibility of SMEs means that, as well as being able to contribute to the civil space programme, they are also able to add to military space programmes.

166. There have been problems, however, in involving SMEs in large-scale space programmes. David Williams, Chief Executive of Avanti told us that "Traditionally, it has not been possible for small companies to play a big role in the space industry".[287] Dr Williams from BNSC explained that SMEs needed to develop certain skills such as systems management in order to be major players in ESA programmes.[288]

167. The DTI accepted that it had been less successful in providing support to SMEs since the establishment of the Technology Strategy budget. The then Minister, Malcolm Wicks MP told us that "there is always an issue about how we can support SMEs."[289] He acknowledged that "one never wants to appear complacent given the real issues facing quite small companies in competing."[290] However, there have been recent efforts to address the problem. David Williams from BNSC told us that "On the SME side we work as hard as we can. We have recently done a lot of work to help SMEs get into the bidding structures" of the ESA.[291] To overcome the lack of systems management skills often found in SMEs, BNSC has married SMEs to companies that can provide those skills. ESA also has several schemes that support SMEs. It provides an Innovation Triangle initiative, bringing together developers, inventors and customers; it invites SMEs to propose technologies to fulfil Agency needs; and it uses the ARTES programme to encourage SME contributions.[292]

168. We note the importance of SMEs in the space industry and believe that it is crucial that they receive appropriate support. We are concerned that in the past SMEs in the space industry have lacked non-financial as well as financial support from the DTI. We recommend that SMEs be represented on the Space Forum and that the Government establish mechanisms to increase support for SMEs.

LICENSING & SPACE MONITORING

169. The space industry in the UK is governed by regulations derived primarily from the Outer Space Act 1986. This Act requires UK individuals or organisations to apply for a licence from DTI whenever they launch or procure the launch of a space object, operate a space object or carry out any other activity in outer space. The licensing process ensures: the financial health of licensees; that activity does not pose risks to public health, safety or security; an unlimited indemnity from the licensee to HMG against any proven third party costs resulting from activities; and third party liability insurance (to a minimum of £100 million) during the launch and while the satellite is in operation.[293] The Government is required to maintain a public register of space objects launched by UK individuals.

170. Sir Martin Sweeting from SSTL told us that the requirement to provide third party liability insurance was a burden on industry. He explained that "as spacecraft are getting smaller and lower cost the insurance for this […] does not actually shrink and the standing burden of the regulatory side in the Space Act does become a larger proportion of these activities."[294] He noted that the burden created by regulation and insurance had a significant impact upon SMEs and could suppress entrepreneurial activities.[295] The BNSC acknowledged that "Industry have often argued that the potentially unlimited liability and the requirement to obtain insurance cover during the operational phase (following launch) are too onerous and anomalous compared to the other main space faring countries."[296]

171. In 2006, the DTI commissioned a review of the licensing of space from Moreton Hall Associates and JRA Technology. The review noted that there is "a need to update and enhance the operation of the system."[297] The BNSC explained that it "highlighted the treatment of liabilities for UK space activity and licence fees, that could disadvantage UK companies."[298] As a result, the BNSC is considering "Possible future options for handling liability" and "the appropriate licence fee (currently a single charge of £6500 per application) which has remained unchanged while the costs of processing have increased."[299] In its consultation on the new strategy, the BNSC states that "Increased clarity in regulatory regimes is an important priority and the UK needs to continue to pursue discussion with regulators in other key countries to establish the scope for co-operation to minimise costs and regulatory burdens under the Outer Space Act so as to maintain the UK as an attractive base for space operations."[300] The BNSC envisages undertaking a public consultation later this year on its proposals.[301] We are concerned that the current licensing regime impedes enterprise. We welcome the review of licensing and look forward to the public consultation on BNSC's proposals. We recommend that the BNSC pay particular attention to the needs of SMEs in this area.

172. The Government is also responsible for monitoring objects in space. There is an increasing amount of space debris orbiting the Earth. Space Insight told us that

    "The environment within which Earth orbiting satellites operate is becoming increasingly crowded. Each year, launches have added new objects to the resident space population of man-made objects faster than the rate of attrition by atmospheric decay."[302]

Debris in orbit below 600km normally falls back to Earth, whilst that at 800 km tends to stay in orbit. In 2004, the BNSC stated that there were over 9000 tracked objects larger than 10 cm orbiting the Earth and over 100,000 objects between 1cm and 10 cm.[303] Given the large number of objects in space, there is a risk of collisions. In 1996 the French satellite Cerise collided with a piece of debris from an Ariane launch vehicle. [304] The Space Shuttle has had to undertake several avoidance manoeuvres to avoid collisions with debris.[305]

173. Space monitoring is necessary to ensure compliance with regulations and adherence to standards that will reduce space debris. Space Insight argued that "Because satellites are being made ever-cheaper by a wide range of manufacturers, standards to minimise debris production and to specify de-orbiting timescales are essential for the protection of the space environment." [306] Monitoring space also provides information that can be useful for governments or satellite operators. The primary source of data is currently a catalogue produced by US Space Command but according to Space Insight, this catalogue is "of limited accuracy, and is deliberately incomplete."[307]

174. The BNSC is working on this problem at international and national levels. Internationally, the UK participates in the Inter-Agency Space Debris Co-ordination Committee and United Nations bodies such as the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. At a national level, the BNSC announced in November 2006 that it had awarded a £75,000 contract to a space surveillance project and a £33,000 contract to a space debris re-entry prediction project. The company that won these contracts, Space Insight, foresaw that ESA and the EU may bring forward proposals for a space surveillance network at the ESA Ministerial in 2008. We welcome the BNSC's funding for space surveillance. We recommend that future plans for this area, particularly in relation to a possible European project for space surveillance, be outlined in the new space strategy.


225   Oxford Economic Forecasting, The Case For Space: The Impact of Space Derived Services and Data, June 2006, p 8 Back

226   BNSC, The Size and Health of the UK Space Industry 2006: Executive Summary, January 2006, p 5 Back

227   Ev 363  Back

228   Ev 264  Back

229   Ev 184 Back

230   BNSC, The Size and Health of the UK Space Industry 2006: Executive Summary, January 2006 Back

231   Oxford Economic Forecasting, The Case for Space: The Impact of Space Derived Services and Data, June 2006; Ev 185 Back

232   Oxford Economic Forecasting, The Case For Space, June 2006, p 4 Back

233   Ev 115 Back

234   Ev 114 Back

235   Oxford Economic Forecasting, The Case For Space, June 2006, p 4 Back

236   As above Back

237   As above, p 8 Back

238   BNSC, The Size and Health of the UK Space Industry 2006: Executive Summary, January 2006, p 11  Back

239   Oxford Economic Forecasting, The Case For Space, June 2006, p 4 Back

240   BNSC, The Size and Health of the UK Space Industry 2006: Executive Summary, January 2006, p 12  Back

241   Ev 184 Back

242   Q 9 Back

243   Q 10 Back

244   Q 602  Back

245   Q 2 Back

246   Q 17 Back

247   Ev 130 Back

248   Q 22 Back

249   Q 17 Back

250   Ev 339 Back

251   Ev 117 Back

252   Ev 259  Back

253   As above.  Back

254   A further €45 million has been subscribed to ARTES 8 (sub-element 2) to cover Alphasat funding. It is not yet clear how, and in which years these funds will be called up by ESA.  Back

255   Q 18 Back

256   Ev 187 Back

257   Ev 131  Back

258   Ev 186 Back

259   Ev 260  Back

260   Ev 304  Back

261   Ev 380 Back

262   Ev 305  Back

263   Ev 378 Back

264   As above. Back

265   Committee of Public Accounts, Twenty-First Report of Session 2004-05, The United Kingdom's Civil space Activities, HC 47, Q 71. Back

266   Ev 384 Back

267   Ev 115 Back

268   Ev 260 Back

269   Ev 367  Back

270   Ev 379 Back

271   Ev 374 Back

272   BNSC, Space Activities 2006, p 5 Back

273   Ev 271  Back

274   Q 196 Back

275   Ev 271 Back

276   Q 29 Back

277   Ev 271  Back

278   Q 196  Back

279   Ev 259 Back

280   Q 11 Back

281   Q 104 Back

282   Q 108 Back

283   Q 13  Back

284   Q 70 Back

285   Ev 115; Q 143 Back

286   Ev 342 Back

287   Q 9 Back

288   Q 596 Back

289   Q 596 Back

290   As above. Back

291   As above. Back

292   Ev 343 Back

293   Ev 373 Back

294   Q 49  Back

295   Q 50 Back

296   Ev 374  Back

297   BNSC, Space Activities 2006, p 43  Back

298   Ev 360  Back

299   Ev 374 Back

300   BNSC, UK Space Strategy 2003-2006 and beyond, p 33.  Back

301   Ev 116 Back

302   Ev 330  Back

303   BNSC, Space Debris, July 2004, p 1  Back

304   Ev 331  Back

305   Q 49 Back

306   Ev 330  Back

307   Ev 331 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 2007
Prepared 17 July 2007