Seeking Resolution: Growing The UK Small Satellite Industry

In this report we focus on Earth Observation (EO), one of the fastest growing areas of small satellite use.

EO offers the ability to gather vast amounts of data about the planet’s physical, chemical and biological systems and has a multitude of applications in a variety of sectors. 

These EO satellites can monitor urban growth, land-use change, provide rapid casualty estimates after natural or human disasters, and could even enable people to look at the origin of the fish they buy in the supermarket.

Satellite-based Earth Observation (EO) offers us the ability to gather, almost instantaneously, vast amounts of data about the planet’s physical, chemical and biological systems. Indeed, the latest series of European MeteoSat geosynchronous satellites can provide meteorologists with updates on cyclones and storm fronts every 60 seconds. More recently, EO satellite technology has been developed to identify disease outbreaks and even help determine insurance pay-outs.

In 2010 the UK published its first Space Innovation and Growth Strategy (IGS). The primary objective of the IGS is to capture 10% of the £400 billion global space market by 2030, helping create a further 100,000 jobs.

The consequent establishment of the UK Space Agency (UKSA), together with the IGS’s updated strategies in 2014 and 2015, has resulted in growing opportunities for space technologies in the UK. Further, the Satellite Applications Catapult, established in 2013 to accelerate the take-up of emerging satellite technologies, is leading the IGS’s call to action, through its strategic plan focusing on the challenges of both the modern and developing worlds.

Key recommendations

We recognise there is an immediate need to develop the UK satellite sector and create innovative business models which will support the growing small-satellite industry for the next 40 years.

We call for:

  • The UK Space Agency to better support SMEs by setting up a small satellite advisory team, simplifying the licensing regime & scrapping the third-party liability
  • The Satellite Applications Catapult to boost the number of people taking placements in the space industry to 1,000 a year over the next five years, and to increase the money available to SMEs from £20m to £70m over the next five years and sustain this level until 2030
  • Ofcom to work with the UK Spectrum Policy Forum to address Spectrum licencing for all small satellite operators
  • Research councils to work with universities to create a long-term strategy to attract young people into the space sector and develop a strategy for space technology research

Related links

Visit Policy & Press to find out more about our key engineering themes.


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