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Firms must explore new aerospace business

Space technology is set to become big business and UK companies can get themselves into position to make the most of the opportunity.

(Luke Colby)

Virgin Galactic (Luke Colby)

The strength of the UK’s space R&D is represented by technology being developed in universities and at companies such as e2v Technologies and Surrey Satellite.

The government has made a commitment to support industry deliver a UK space sector worth £40bn a year by 2030.

This will be the responsibility of an enlarged UK Space Agency and increased UK subscription to the European Space Agency.

An example of this a £25m investment in ESA’s PLATO mission to search for habitable planets orbiting alien stars.

Planned for launch by 2024, the planet hunting mission will see strong involvement from several UK institutes and UK space companies are well-placed to bid for the industrial contracts supporting PLATO.

But the new aerospace opportunity may not come from traditional government-funded actives of NASA and ESA.

Virgin Galactic is leading the race to create commercial space travel using its suborbital SpaceShipTwo.

But other space technology business opportunities are coming from a surprising source.

Space tech is being championed by a new generation of internet companies. Google beat off interest from Facebook to buy Titan Aerospace to design space drones to collect images and offer web access in remote regions.

Facebook has another plan to create space drones using laser communication links to provider internet access. Even Amazon is investigating its own use of drones.

While the government continues to target big space projects at ESA and NASA to generate hi-tech jobs, if the industry widens its view of space tech a little there could be an even bigger prize.



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