2017 World Space Week (4-7 September)

4 October 2017

The 2017 World Space Week is here, and for the next few days the world will be celebrating the wonders of Space.

Astronaut in full suit floating out in space

(Credit: NASA)

The Wonders of Space

It has been an inspirational couple of years for space exploration and technology – from Cassini’s final dive into Saturn’s atmosphere, to the discovery of gravitational waves and the start of the construction of the Extremely Large Telescope - there’s too much to mention! Astronomy and the wonders of space have never ceased to capture our imaginations as we seek answers about our origins and whether we are alone, and continue to provide remarkable inspiration for our future generations.

Space technology – improving our lives and wellbeing

At the same time, space has rapidly become a fundamental part of our everyday lives, revolutionising our communications, global navigation, national security, and worldwide radio and TV broadcasting. We don’t think twice about using a sat nav, or using our phones to check the weather and news, or just to communicate. Our food supply, energy, security, medical diagnostics and fight against climate change are increasingly supported by space-based technologies and capabilities and will continue to be so.

The UK Space Industry – a major success story

"From Cornwall to the Highlands and islands of Scotland, the UK space sector underpins industries worth more than £250 billion to the UK economy, and through our Industrial Strategy we will unlock the sector’s potential to grow further." - Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson. (11 July 2017).

The UK Space industry is a dynamic and high growth sector, which has been growing at an annual rate of 8% over the last decade. Responsible for world leading science and technologies that are essential for many past and present international space missions, it also provides significant and direct economic benefits to the UK through industrial and commercial contracts.

A recently published independent report commissioned by the UK Space Agency, the ‘Size and Health of the UK Space Sector 2016’ revealed that the UK is currently worth £13.7 billion to the UK economy, while satellites support over 38,000 jobs in Britain. It also reported that UK space industry covers the full spectrum of organisation size, from start-ups using space technologies to develop new products and services, to major multinational corporations.

The UK is a major manufacturer of many of the satellites surrounding the Earth, with well-established strengths in satellite manufacturing, satellite operations, space exploration and remote sensing. It is a leading manufacturer of small satellites, as well as some of the largest in the world, and is home to many world leading experts in design software and integration. The UK Space Agency’s report estimates that the global market for launching satellites will reach £25 billion over the next 20 years, which presents significant fresh opportunities to grow the UK’s space sector and create even more new, high skilled jobs.

Further major economic returns are also gained indirectly from the capabilities acquired in industry to develop the new and ambitious innovations required to meet exciting industrial challenges in space technology - such as new detectors and optics for some of the world’s largest, most ambitious telescopes - the ELT for example. The result is a vibrant resource for the UK of talented engineers and scientists, capable of applying their talents in a broad range of areas of great benefit to the UK economy and society.

Earlier this year, the Government outlined plans to increase the UK share of the global space economy from 6.5% today to 10% by 2030. Intended to secure continued growth of the space industry, the legislation will aim to deliver a stronger economy by generating jobs and putting British business, engineering and science at the forefront of this technology.


Infographic showing size and reach of UK space industry

(Credit: STFC)

Data for this article is taken from ‘Size and Health of the UK Space Industry 2016’, by London Economics and commissioned by the UK Space Agency.

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000