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Britain is on course to become a “global power in space” after the first meeting of the Government’s reignited space council, ministers have predicted.
The National Space Council, whose mission is to co-ordinate all aspects of the UK’s space strategy, met today for the first time since its reinstatement.
It was created three years ago to offer ministerial leadership on developing the UK’s space sector – but was disbanded by former Prime Minister Liz Truss during her brief tenure in office.
Her decision was criticised by MPs, and it was swiftly re-established by Rishi Sunak, Ms Truss’s successor.
The meeting was co-chaired by Chloe Smith, Secretary of State for Science and Technology, and Ben Wallace, Secretary of State for Defence, with other Cabinet ministers attending, as well as British astronaut Tim Peake.
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Ms Smith said: “Space is critical to modern life: global telecoms, weather forecasting, and our national security all rely on satellites, and as the importance of space grows, so must our ambitions for the UK.
“Our reinstated National Space Council will ensure the Government moves in lockstep with the sector to deliver our ambitions to grow the space economy.
She continued: “The UK is perfectly placed, whether geographically, economically or as a product of our world-class skills base, to be not only a European leader but a global power in space.”
Along with ensuring the UK has a thriving space sector which can create jobs, the council will also set out to develop strategies to strengthen the nation’s defence capabilities, with Mr Wallace stressing the UK could not afford to get left behind.
He said: “The war in Ukraine has highlighted just how critical space is to military operations.
“My department continues to work closely with DSIT (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology) to deliver the UK’s ambition for space to ensure we have the capabilities we need to protect and defend this critical domain and to exploit the opportunities it offers for operations into the future.”
The meeting coincided with a new National Space Strategy in Action by DSIT, outlining the Government’s plan for how the UK can become a leading player in the space race, keeping pace with the US, India and China.
Dr Paul Bate, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “The National Space Strategy in Action highlights the significant progress made towards delivering the Government’s ambition to make the UK one of the most innovative and attractive space economies in the world.
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“By catalysing investment into UK businesses, increasing our involvement in major space missions and championing the power of space to improve lives, the UK Space Agency is playing a major role in accelerating the growth of the UK’s thriving space sector.”
Ben Bridge, chairman of Airbus Defence and Space UK, said: “We welcome this report and commend the Government on progress and commitment to further developing the space sector.
“We look forward to the next phase of implementing the National Space Strategy, and the publication of the Space Sector Plan, to help the Government deliver on its ambitions for unlocking growth through building and expanding national space capabilities.”
Mark Dankberg, chairman and chief executive of internet service provider Viasat, said: “I’m glad to support the United Kingdom’s goals within the National Space Strategy to unlock economic growth, investment, trade and scientific opportunities in the New Space Age.”
Greg Clark, chairman of the Commons Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, made up of cross-party MPs, said last year that the disbanding of the National Space Council under the Truss government was “clearly a step in the wrong direction”.
His comments accompanied a report by the committee that criticised UK space policy as “uncertain and disjointed”.
The committee has since acknowledged the reinstatement of the council.
However, it said in its latest report, published earlier this month, there was “not a moment to lose if the UK is to realise the full potential of this extraordinary sector”.
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