The study found that £523 million of UK Space Agency funding put into the European Space Agency’s Space Science Programme (SSP) has generated £1.4 billion of income for UK industry, with a further £1.1 billion from partially attributed and forecast benefits.
The investment, between 2000-2018, created 306 jobs. The UK industry regularly secures major ESA contracts to provide mission spacecraft platforms, support mission operations and develop major subsystems.
To support UK involvement in the build and data exploitation of the science instruments themselves, the UK Space Agency provides separate funding to the academic community.
One of the missions addressed by the report, Solar Orbiter, is due to launch in February. This will take the most detailed images ever of the Sun and provide crucial information about how our star’s volatile activity affects its atmosphere. This knowledge will help improve predictions of space weather events, which can disrupt and damage satellites.
The UK is at the heart of this ESA mission, with Airbus at Stevenage winning the contract to design and build the spacecraft. This could become the template for an operational programme to monitor and warn us of approaching Space Weather. Meanwhile Imperial College London and UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory are leading international teams to design and build two instruments while the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s RAL Space and UCL are major contributors to two more and from which future operational requirements will be defined.