Grants worth £10 million are being made available to help develop commercial launch capability for spaceflight, Science Minister Jo Johnson announced today. The funding comes as the government announced the timeline for new legislation which will facilitate and regulate commercial spaceflight.
The government’s ambitions for the UK to hold a greater share of the commercial spaceflight market, worth an estimated £25 billion over the next 20 years, took a step forward with a call for businesses to develop competitive, commercial and safe spaceflight proposals for UK-based satellite launch services and sub-orbital flights.
Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said:
Spaceflight offers the UK the opportunity to build on our strengths in science, research and innovation. It provides opportunities to expand into new markets, creating highly-skilled jobs and boosting local economies across the country. That is why it is one of the key pillars of our Industrial Strategy.
We want to see the UK space sector flourish, that is why we are laying the groundwork needed for business to be able to access this lucrative global market worth an estimated £25 billion over the next 20 years. The call for proposals I announced today, together with a new, dedicated Spaceflight Bill, will help make our space ambitions a reality.
Organisations expected to bid for a share of the funding are likely to be joint enterprises of launch vehicle operators and potential launch sites. The funding must be used to develop spaceflight capabilities, such as building spaceport infrastructure or adapting launch vehicle technology for use in the UK. The aim is to establish a commercial spaceflight market to capture a share of the emerging global market from 2020.
The government also announced that it is preparing legislation to develop a safe and competitive regulatory environment for spaceflight. This work goes hand-in-hand with government’s work internationally to achieve the technical, trade and policy agreements necessary for UK based launch services and developing interest from launch customers and operators from around the world.
There will be further discussions with industry on the future of the UK’s commercial spaceflight market at the Royal Aeronautical Society on 21st February, hosted by the UK Space Agency.
Proposals must be submitted to the UK Space Agency, in accordance with the guidance set out in the call notice by 15 April 2017.
- Proposals must be submitted by joint enterprises, consisting of at least one potential UK spaceport and one small-satellite launch or sub-orbital flight operator.
- This initial call is focused on establishing the commercial spaceflight market in the UK by potentially providing grant funding to the most feasible proposals, and is not a prize. The UK Space Agency will continue to offer support and advice to all potential UK spaceports and operators, regardless of the outcome.
- Proposals that meet the mandatory criteria will be assessed by an independent advisory panel, which will evaluate the proposals according to a set scoring system as described in the call notice.
- There is no limit to the total grant which may be applied for as part of the proposal, however an exceptional case would be needed for funding over £10 million. There is no cap on the number of proposals that may be funded, or the number of proposals that an applicant may participate in. The Government is not committed to any expenditure, and will evaluate proposals carefully to ensure proper use of public funds.
- To be considered for a grant, joint enterprises or vehicle operators and potential spaceports should propose an outline business plan on how they intend to launch small satellites or sub-orbital flights, including space tourism, microgravity flights or spaceplanes, from the UK by 2020.
- Any award of funding will not preclude or influence the need for all commercial spaceflight operations to be fully licenced.
- The UK space sector drives growth and skills across the country as part of the government’s industrial strategy.