The UK Space Agency has laid a plan for the future of the UK space sector with a £65 million new space innovation funding which stretches to projects running till 2027. Ritzau Scanpix / Mads Claus Rasmussen/Reuters

Space science and technology development in the UK gets a major boost as the UK government announced new funding to support innovations.

On Thursday, September 28, the UK Space Agency announced £65 million for groundbreaking innovations in the UK space sector. The new investment seeks to enhance Britain's position in the global space science field.

With this move, the UK government is trying to charge up UK leadership in space technologies and their applications.

The Rishi Sunak government launched the National Space Innovation Programme (NSIP) for this purpose yesterday. Through this programme, high-risk high-reward projects built by UK companies will be supported. This will speed up satellite applications and services along with the development of new space technologies.

The new space innovation funding is an opportunity for the UK space sector to develop novel and valuable commercial innovations, said the UK Space Agency.

This will help in tackling global challenges like climate change and global warming with accurate satellite data. According to the UK Space Agency, new space tech innovations can also make "in-orbit applications more sustainable".

Only £34 million of the £65 million funding from the new space innovation funding has been allocated to projects to accelerate space tech innovations. The remaining funds are yet to be assigned and will be used to boost the UK space sector in 2024 and 2025.

Most of these projects are likely to run till March 2027 and seek to draw investment into the UK space sector and accelerate market adoption of space technology.

NSIP was launched in 2020 and in these three years, the programme has supported UK organisations with more than £25 million in funding including the development of the first Middle Wavelength Infra-Red (MWIR) satellite SatVu.

Launched in June 2023, SatVu is helping to fulfil Britain's net zero ambitions and reduce emissions by providing insights into how to build emissions that can improve energy use in the country. The earth observation data from the satellite is behind this.

Meanwhile, Northumbria University has developed and tested a miniature laser optical communications terminal with the NSIP funding. This terminal will make way for better inter-satellite data sharing necessary for future space missions.

The UK government announced this funding ahead of the UK Space Conference scheduled to be held in ICC Belfast from November 21 to November 23. Global space innovators and government executives will discuss the future of space at this conference.

New space innovation funding to address challenges in the UK space sector

The UK Space Minister from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, George Freeman termed the NSIP push for "British innovation at its best".

According to Freeman the ever-advancing space sector of the UK will benefit from the pioneering new ideas generated by world-class scientists and technologists.

The Space Minister explained how these projects will strengthen Britain's position in the global space community as they unlock the business potential of the UK space sector.

Freeman further illustrated how it will increase job opportunities in the sector and accelerate the growth of the £17.5 billion UK space sector.

The Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency Dr Paul Bate said that the new space innovation programme will address real-world challenges as it supports the most ambitious space technology projects in the country.

Dr Bate underlined how crucial this funding is to build up new space missions and enhance the capabilities of the UK space sector. The programme will help in attracting space science investments which can "harness the power of space to improve lives", said Dr Bate.

Dr Bate informed how the NSIP funding is split between a kick starter package and funds for major projects. The NSIP Kick Starter funding is for early-stage disruptive innovations like the Cardiff-based Space Forge's development of retractable solar panels. This project could provide affordable energy solutions to reusable satellites, revealed Dr. Bate.

The Imperial College London used the NSIP Kick Starter funding for metal additive manufacturing which could help the space sector with 3D printing of replacement parts as required in orbit, Dr Bate added.

This comes at a time when a survey revealed the necessity of AI and other technological innovations in the UK space sector.

The Chair of the UK trade association UKspace, John Hanley, drew attention to the fact that the UK space sector is the most research-intensive part of the UK economy with £800 million spending.

Hanley underlined how crucial the NSIP funding is to reduce barriers in space technology development and create jobs.

A managing partner of the investment company Seraphim Space, Rob Desborough, spoke of the thriving SpaceTech ecosystem of the UK which has attracted 17 per cent of the £38.55 billion ($47 billion) private investments in the global space sector since 2015.

According to Desborough, programmes like the NSIP funding are essential for maintaining the UK's lead of being the second most attractive destination of space investments, after the US.

The global space sector is a competitive market estimated to reach $1 trillion by 2030.