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Why the UK Space Arena is Growing

Space shuttle flying into the clouds

The UK space industry has been experiencing remarkable growth in recent years, cementing its position as a leading player in the global space sector. As highlighted across several recent reports and announcements in recent times, various factors are driving this exponential expansion of British space companies and organisations. The space sector is one of the fastest-growing industries globally – it’s predicted to be worth $3 trillion by 2040.

Booming economy and increased investment

The space economy is booming like never before. According to industry body ADS Group, the UK space sector added £7 billion in value to the national economy in 2022 alone. The turnover from British space organisations reached a staggering £17.5 billion last year, with space exports growing to £5.9 billion. These exceptionally healthy economic indicators demonstrate the vitality and potential of UK space.

Additionally, more and more funding is flowing into British space ventures. Total private investment has been rising at a remarkable 21% annual rate, leading experts to dub 2024 the 'Year of the Space Entrepreneur'. The UK secured 39 space deals amounting to £237 million of investment over the past year, ranking it 3rd globally, behind the US and China. While the space industry was once dominated by large established corporations, newer players are now driving more acquisitions and consolidation. There is also increased activity from private equity firms who recognise the growth prospects and value in UK space companies.

Government programmes adding impetus

The UK government and its Space Agency are providing significant support to catalyse growth in the sector. At the 2023 Space-Comm Expo in Farnborough, the Agency announced £6.6 million of new funding for international science partnerships and STEM education projects. The first 9 projects selected will foster collaborations between British organisations and partners in the US, Japan, Canada and Europe to co-develop space science and exploration missions. Another £4.3 million has been earmarked to deliver STEM education via space.

Such programmes align with the government's aim for the UK to become Europe's leading space nation by 2030. The devolved Scottish government is also fully committed to enabling its space industry to reach new heights, with Europe's first vertical orbital rocket launch from Scottish soil expected later this year. The UK Space Agency's Fusion investment-completion programme also promises to ready up to 20 high-potential space start-ups for seed and pre-seed funding rounds of up to £2 million each. Industry body UK Space's chairperson John Hanley stated that such government initiatives underline the faith in and opportunities inherent in British space.

Cutting-edge innovations

The UK space industry has moved far beyond just scientific exploration, with commercial products and services now comprising 80% of the domestic space market. The UK has become a leader in small satellite technology, with companies like Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) playing a significant role globally.

British companies are also pioneering various revolutionary innovations that promise to transform life on Earth, such as satellites capable of climate change geomonitoring and pharmaceutical research in zero-gravity space labs. Although such remarkable initiatives remain relatively unknown to the public, they demonstrate how cutting-edge UK space ventures are pushing frontiers.

In the defence realm, communications leader Viasat announced at the Space-Comm Expo that it was selected by a US Air Force lab to provide on-orbit connectivity support for space-based military capability demonstrations. Such industry announcements and partnerships with foreign governments and militaries underline that British space tech and know-how are deemed world-class.

Attractiveness for investments and jobs

The UK space industry has been punching above its weight relative to the still modest size of the domestic space market. Early movers thus recognise that British space companies are currently undervalued relative to their strong growth prospects. This explains growing interest from acquirers and private equity players in snapping up UK space ventures that can then be scaled further to unlock their full potential. 

The high productivity and value generation of the UK space sector also make it an attractive arena for job seekers. The industry already directly employs about 48,800 professionals, including 2,300 apprentices. Moreover, it is estimated that another 126,800 jobs in the wider supply chain depend on and support British space organisations. As the sector grows from strength to strength, these employment figures are also likely to rise.

Promising future outlook

Industry projections indicate the stellar growth of recent years is set to continue going forward. According to Seraphim's space market analysis, while valuations for the hottest space start-ups may reset from their current high, the space data vertical will still deliver massive expansion. Overall, the UK space sector is widely expected to keep outpacing the growth rates recorded in previous years and exceed the performance of the broader national economy.

Governmental organisations like the UK Space Agency will continue stepping up initiatives and funding to maintain the momentum. The greater private sector and equity capital flowing into British space companies will also likely persist as more investors beyond the industry recognise the high risk-adjusted returns on offer. As capabilities increase, the UK space industry will keep pushing new frontiers in satellite communications, Earth observation, space science, and beyond.

If the current conducive backdrop holds, Britain firmly remains on track to meet its ambition of becoming Europe's number one space nation within this decade. The country's space arena looks set to keep delivering record growth, high-value jobs and cutting-edge innovations that improve life on Earth.

What kind of job opportunities are there in space?

Engineers: Aerospace Engineers, Project Managers, Mechanical Engineers, Robotics Engineers, and Electronics Engineers responsible for the design and manufacture of the spacecraft, satellites, navigation systems, and related instrumentation. Power Electronics Engineers are involved in power processing, photovoltaic generation, distribution and conditioning, battery management, and driver controls as well as propulsion engineering.

Software/IT: Software Engineers, Data Scientists/Analysts and Mathematicians who are all responsible for the design and development of software to control and monitor the space vehicle, and manage navigation and/or communication systems.

Scientist: Geologists, Chemists, Physicists, and Medics.

Non-Technical: Includes Sales, Marketing, Public Relations, Finance, Legal, Business Strategy and Tourism.

Space-Comm Expo 2024:

Redline will be attending the Space-comm expo 2024, the UK’s largest space industry event, on 6-7 March at Farnborough. If you are scheduled to attend, contact us now to set up a meeting!

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