By Arun Kumar Sampathkumar, Industry Manager, Aerospace & Defence, Frost & Sullivan
The UK government has recently announced that operators controlling or involved in spaceport business models can apply for GBP 2 million to initiate an effort to realize commercial scheduled operations in the air-launched rocket segment of launch services. Such launch capabilities, under development, primarily focus on the small-satellite market and therefore this announcement reinforces the UK government’s intent to capture 10% of the global space economy by 2030.
Frost & Sullivan’s research indicates the UK Space Agency (UKSA) has been working closely with many space industry participants with the aim of establishing a space hub in the UK bringing in businesses from around the world to take advantage of UKSA’s spaceport efforts and in turn enable the rest of the space industry with a comprehensive coverage spanning from manufacturing to launches. We are happy to have supported such efforts in the past.
This announcement must mean a lot to the new players entering the space industry, especially those developing range-independent launch capabilities, specifically those specializing in air-launched systems. Such technologies have to demonstrate their reliability and gain the regulators’ nod so the rest of the industry confidently engages them for their missions.
The key challenge to these new players is restricted access to space launch infrastructure and the legal constraints of testing their launch capabilities in uncontrolled open space. If a commercial spaceport business model involving a public-private partnership can open a door for them, nothing can be a better boost for those launch service providers and the small-satellite industry as a whole.
Government investment in spaceport based business models just got a big push. It will be interesting to see the rising intent to invest in new space capabilities in the launch segment. The air-launched systems are gaining prominence and it will be a great wait and watch to observe the operators take advantage of this and establish their operations in the UK.
Again, the key market such air-launches systems will support is the small-satellite market which means government(s) investment is going towards a market whose probability of success was subject to debate until a few years ago.
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