Undoubtedly, the space sector has undergone a substantial change in the last five years. This has come about as there are more opportunities in the market to supply satellites, resulting in a variety of companies across the world launching and redefining the way we live, and beginning a mini space race.
But there are many challenges that these companies face, especially around public perception.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX programme, NASA’s Mars missions and even the moon landings are what people associate with the industry. However, it’s no longer about going where no man has gone before – we should care about the space industry if we care about our sat-nav taking us to the nearest petrol station, our transactions going through safely, knowing what the weather will be today, or watching our favourite shows.
It impacts all of our everyday lives and has the potential to enhance them.
The UK space sector might be smaller than its US and Asian counterparts, but the Government has signaled its ambition in space, indicating that the powers of Government are ready to be used. That being said, with a lack of understanding on the benefits within the public, it will continue to have a knock on effect that could prevent the UK from being global leaders in space.
If the industry is still seen as a novelty, it will be harder to justify public spending and secure private funding, making money even harder to come by in an already competitive market.
And although the Government has shown support, there are still regulatory issues that stop rocket launches from happening, with UK space companies deciding to launch in other countries because it’s easier to get the permissions needed. That itself could drive away investors from committing to UK programmes.
With the support of government, there is a need to change the narrative of space and the preconceptions around what it means for the public in order to realise the long terms benefits.
By giving clarity on the strategic goals of space and showing an ambition in the industry to boost our post-Covid recovery, it could lead to public support to invest in the innovative companies leading the way, providing new business and funding opportunities. Not only that, but it would also result in changes to regulations that allow those companies to operate with more freedom.
It is vital that the space industry provides the necessary vision, energy and direction to propel us forward.