The UK’s first ever National Space Strategy

The government’s long-term plans for the UK space sector have been set out in the new National Space Strategy, which launched today at the UK Space Conference.  

Produced by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Ministry of Defence (MOD), and UK Space Agency, the Strategy sets out the UK’s five visions and goals for the UK as a leading space nation, and how to achieve these objectives through four strategic pillars and a high level 10-point plan.  

The Strategy brings together the UK government’s civil and defence space activities to ensure an integrated approach to combating hostile forces and emerging international threats such as cyber-attacks and anti-satellite missiles, while protecting UK interests at home and abroad. 

It also sets out how the government will build on the UK’s strengths in space including satellite manufacturing and communications, while working with British companies at the cutting edge of the latest advances in space technologies. The Strategy outlines how the UK can establish global leadership in high-growth areas, such as satellite broadband operations, while also focusing on new and emerging markets like in-orbit servicing and space debris removal. 

Matt Evans, Director, Markets at techUK comments: 

Today’s publication of the UK’s National Space Strategy is a welcome commitment by government to boosting the UK’s thriving space sector – it is positive to see a whole-of-government approach to maximising the value of innovation funding and exploiting the synergies across civil and defence research. techUK looks forward to working with our members, stakeholders and government departments to put this high-level framework into action.  

We also look forward to the forthcoming Defence Space Strategy which will outline how Defence will contribute to and benefit from the UK's wider national space ambitions.

The headline announcement is the UK’s plan to become the first country to launch a rocket into orbit from Europe in 2022, with the Strategy setting out how it intends to cement the UK’s ambition to become the leading provider of commercial small satellite launches in Europe by 2030. 

The Strategy also sets out a useful context of “space today and tomorrow”, rightly acknowledging its strengths: the UK space sector is growing faster than the rest of the UK economy, and the average worker in the space sector is 2.6 times more productive than in other sectors. It is worth over £16.4 billion per year, employs over 45,000 people, and satellites underpin £360 billion per year of wider economic activity. 

Challenges include managing the rapid pace of transformation and change, as well as coordination in space as it becomes more congested and contested.  

The Strategy makes a welcome commitment to invest in the UK’s first Defence Space Portfolio, investing £5 billion over 10 years in the military’s satellite communications and £1.4 billion in new technologies and capabilities. It is positive to see government recognition and focus on the space domain as a key part of the integration of Defence operations across the five domains (Space, Cyber, Land, Maritime, Air). There also includes welcome further references to improving the speed and simplicity of defence procurement, as previously set out in the Defence & Security Industrial Strategy (DSIS). Finally – the launch of the National Space Operations Centre, to fuse civil and defence expertise to monitor, protect, defend, and promote UK interests in Space, is a positive commitment.  

UK vision and goals

Goal 1: Grow and level up our space economy

We will make the UK one of the most attractive countries for space-sector businesses of all sizes and for talent to grow and thrive. We will back business to develop new commercial opportunities, from those areas in which the UK already excels to fast growing markets and exciting future possibilities. We will create a national space ecosystem spreading employment across the UK, boosting exports, attracting talent and investment, and further integrating space data and technologies into daily life.

Goal 2: Promote the values of Global Britain

We will support an open and stable international order through our engagement on space. We will demonstrate global leadership and drive discussions on space safety, security, and sustainability and hold other nations to account for their actions in space. We will promote responsible behaviours and work to avoid miscalculation, escalation, and conflict. With the UK’s partners, we will modernise the guidelines governing the peaceful and responsible use of space, to keep pace with new technologies and create opportunities for science and industry.

Goal 3: Lead pioneering scientific discovery and inspire the nation

We will support research that protects our planet and nation, allows us to live healthier and richer lives and answers the biggest questions about our place in the universe. British-built technologies and new missions for UK astronauts will ultimately help people to live and work in space. We will support our space sector to deliver one million engagement activities a year with young people across the UK, inspiring the next generations of space scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. This will help to build and sustain our strategic advantage through science and technology, as set out in the Integrated Review.

Goal 4: Protect and defend our national interests in and through space

We will strengthen our security and enhance our resilience at home and overseas. Through increased autonomy and more diverse collaboration we will know what is happening in space and maintain our freedom to respond to threats and deter hostile behaviour. We will ensure that space fully supports our overall approach to defence, including integrating defence operations across the five domains. We will also ensure our Critical National Infrastructure can rely on a wide range of resilient space technologies including Position, Navigation and Timings services. We will develop ambitious capabilities to improve our resilience and ensure we are fully able to protect UK interests, and those of our allies, in and through space, while maximising our freedom to operate. We will enhance our ability to prevent the transfer of sensitive UK technologies for use in hostile space programmes.

Goal 5: Use space to deliver for UK citizens and the world

We will use space to tackle global challenges, including climate change and biodiversity loss, and deliver better services to the public such as modernising our transport system, supporting our NHS, and protecting our borders. We will support businesses to develop the new technologies and infrastructure to deliver these services through better government procurement, with clearer requirements, a more joined up approach to civil and defence needs, and easier routes for firms to offer their expertise. We will also use space to help deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals, putting the UK at the forefront of meeting the needs of our planet and its people. Government will work with British companies, researchers, innovators, and our partners and allies across the world to transform the UK’s space sector and achieve these goals.

How the UK will achieve National Space Strategy goals

Pillar One: Unlocking growth in the UK space sector

  1. Building trading partnerships 
  2. Building a whole-UK space ecosystem
  3. Leading the world in modern space regulation
  4. Unleashing innovation in the space sector
  5. Nurturing talent
  6. Using government procurement to best effect
  7. Access to finance and insurance

Pillar Two: Collaborating internationally

  1. Building global partnerships 
  2. Diplomacy for an open and stable international order


Pillar Three: Growing the UK as a science and technology superpower

Government will champion UK-led space science, exploration and innovation which expands our horizons and inspires the next generation.

Pillar Four: Developing resilient space capabilities and services

The key civil and defence capability priorities for the UK are:

  • Satellite Communications
  • Earth Observation (EO) and, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)
  • Command-and-Control and Space Capability Management
  • Space Control
  • Position Navigation and Timing (PNT)
  • Orbital Launch Capability
  • In Orbit Servicing and Manufacturing (IOSM)
  • Space Domain Awareness (SDA)

Ten Point Plan: Initial focus areas

National Space Strategy: Ten Point Plan

  1. Capture the European market in commercial small satellite launch
  2. Fight climate change with space technology
  3. Unleash innovation across the space sector
  4. Expand our horizons with space science and exploration 
  5. Develop our world class space clusters
  6.  Lead the global effort to make space more sustainable
  7. Improve public services with space technology
  8.  Deliver the UK Defence Space Portfolio
  9. Upskill and inspire our future space workforce 
  10. Use space to modernise and transform our transport system 

You can access the full Strategy here, and the Technical Annex

Matthew Evans

Matthew Evans

Director, Markets, techUK

Fred Sugden

Fred Sugden

Associate Director, Defence and National Security, techUK

Sophie James

Sophie James

Head of Telecoms and Spectrum Policy, techUK

Freddie MacSwiney

Programme Manager - Defence and Cyber, techUK