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The Integrated Review (IR) and Defence Command Paper (DCP) both have significant sections on space, linked to a broader focus on embracing cutting-edge technology. There is little to surprise those who follow developments in UK space policy, with most of the specifics being restatements of previous announcements. The difference now, however, is that what may before have been considered mere ambition is now official government policy.
Despite the lack of surprises, the fact that space is included to this extent is a positive move. Not only does it reflect the strategic importance of the domain to the UK’s defence, national security and foreign policy objectives – as well as its economic prosperity – but it adds weight to the UK’s previously stated goal to capture 10% of the global space industry by 2030. The sense that there is nothing new also highlights an increased coherence when it comes to space, both within Defence and across government. After decades of a less-than-joined-up approach, it appears that everyone is now on the same page.
The largest funding commitment within the DCP for space is attached to the Skynet 6 programme of military communications satellites, with £5 billion promised over 10 years. As the flagship Ministry of Defence (MoD) space programme, and indeed constituting the UK’s only sovereign military space assets at present, this is not surprising. For all the ambition in areas such as small satellites, space launch and foreign policy, a large, long-term programme such as Skynet helps to cement the UK’s status and is something to build upon. With questions remaining over what other aspects of UK space policy will look like in reality, secure funding for an existing programme is needed.
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