02 Feb 2022

MOD releases Defence Space Strategy

The Ministry of Defence has published its new Defence Space Strategy which sets out commitments to operationalise the Space domain at pace and secure UK interests to preserve strategic advantage.

The Strategy directly supports the goals and visions laid out in the National Space Strategy published in September 2021 – the techUK summary can be found here – and as the Integrated Review made clear, the UK must modernise to meet new and future challenges such as space. The Strategy contributes to all four strategic objectives set out in the Integrated Review and articulates Defence’s approach to space activity out to 2030.

As the National Space Strategy laid out, the UK heavily relies on Space based assets for critical services that impact daily on civil, commercial and military sectors including global communications, secure banking transactions, transport and navigation. The growth of the Space industry and the rapid acceleration and proliferation of technology has seen commercial products that are increasingly sophisticated. Access to Space has also become easier due to more frequent launch opportunities, the deployment of mega-constellations and re-useable capabilities, however this is paired with the Space domain becoming more competitive, congested and contested. To address the constant competition in the future, the MOD needs to set a precedent for Space behaviours that will increase the transparency, predictability and security of all Space systems and will enable the UK to operate and compete in and through Space, if necessary.

techUK welcomes the Strategy’s encouraging commitment to integrate Defence, wider government, international partners and industry through the commercial, research and scientific sectors to bring maximum coherence to the national Space ambition.

The Cross-Cutting Principles underpinning the strategy are as follows:

  1. Broadening and deepening multinational cooperation by strengthening the UK’s bilateral and multilateral relations with the Five Eyes partners, NATO and other allies in order to adopt an ‘international by design’ mindset.
  2. Improving cross-government collaboration by further developing relationships with departments such as BEIS to improve the way Space policy and programmes are delivered and working closely with the security and intelligence services to support domestic and foreign security.
  3. Driving innovation and making use of technological opportunities by exploiting the UK’s industrial strength and harnessing the significant innovation and industry-driven opportunities existing across the private sector to foster closer working relations with a broad range of technology companies.

The space ambitions and planned outputs will be met through 3 Strategic Themes:

  1. Protect and defend the UK’s national interests in and through Space by developing Space capabilities to deliver effective military outcomes, identify and attribute threats to Space systems and respond to hostile activities in a proportionate manner.  
  2. Enhance military operations by integrating Space into all relevant aspects of Defence business and boosting Multi-Domain Integration and architectures.  
  3. Upskill and cohere a sustainable Space workforce by recruiting, training and retaining talented individuals. 

In addition to the £5 billion over 10 years already allocated to the future of Skynet Satellite communications, the Strategy outlines a further £1.4 billion which has been allocated to support Defence operations over the next decade:

  • £970 million will go into the new ISTARI programme which puts in place the foundations of a next-generation constellation of ISR in Low Earth Orbit.
  • £61 million in a programme called TITANIA which will experiment with optical laser communication technology.
  • £85 million is destined to develop Space Domain Awareness capabilities
  • £135 million has been allocated to boost Command and Control capabilities over the decade. Besides underpinning the new Space Command this funding will also deliver the AURORA programme.
  • £145 million will go on Space Control.

Other notable announcements:

  • In addition to the above funding, the MOD announced a further £127 million of investment over the next 4 years in Minerva which is about the best means to deliver the digital backbone upon which our space enterprise will depend. It is focused on the processing power, the radio frequencies, the imaging capabilities and the data streams to deliver space-based intelligence.  
  • Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) is manufacturing a tiny shoe-box sized satellite known as Prometheus 2, manufactured in the UK, it is operated by the company In-Space Missions with ground station support from Dstl’s international partners and Airbus Defence & Space UK.
  • SKYNET 6A satellite being built by Airbus Defence & Space remains on track for launch in 2025.

Julian David, techUK CEO, said:

“techUK welcomes the release of the Defence Space Strategy and its ambitions to ensure the UK will become more resilient, robust and a global player in the space domain. The Strategy commits to strengthening the UK’s status as a world-class space power and becoming an attractive space economy.

"The announcement of a further £1.4 billion in funding, allocated to support Defence Space operations in the next decade, together with the commitment to work closely with industry presents a fantastic opportunity for the UK’s tech industry to assist in the implementation of the Strategy, particularly in downstream applications.

"Space-based capabilities are fundamental to the UK’s national security, and techUK looks forward to working closely with the MOD as it moves forward to deliver on the Strategy’s commitments.”

The Defence Space Strategy can be found in full, here

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