Written Evidence Submitted by Jacobs

(SPA0073)

 

Summary

 

The UK is well positioned to present itself as a globally competitive space nation. The synergies within R&D, academia, private and state funding are all enabling this highly progressive sector to grow in the UK. Our strengths lie within our historical engineering legacy, established footholds in the up-, mid- and downstream space sectors, high value R&D programmes and our international partnership opportunities (Indian Space Research Organisation). Future threats to our success include global competition, international trade agreements (Brexit/TSA) and the supply of inclusive talent within our domestic workforce. The UK has all the potential to become a world leading, high value space nation, further enabling us to protect national interests and safeguard our ability to develop and maintain independent satellite infrastructure.

 

 

JACOBS Engineering Group Response

Our Space Credentials

Jacobs Engineering Group, and its subsidiary Jacobs UK Ltd, is a provider of multidisciplinary consultancy and engineering services to state and commercial clients worldwide. Jacobs has particular insights into the space sector through our historic relationship with NASA: Jacobs currently provides 50% of all specialist engineers and programme staff seconded into NASA at sites across the US.

Jacobs also provides contract services to the rapidly expanding US commercial space industry and has a growing UK and Middle East and Asia-Pacific space business. For example, Jacobs is currently supporting the development of a space cluster strategy for North Highlands and Moray, centred around Space Port Sutherland and a growing launch vehicle manufacturing operation on the Moray Firth; supporting development of the space strategy in the Middle East, and; supporting development of the Anglo-Australian space bridge with partners in Australia and New Zealand.

From this experience, we have a keen understanding of the opportunities and threats faced by the UK in securing 10% of the rapidly emerging global space market, which is forecast to grow to £400bn a year by 2030. From our $2bn a year global defence and nuclear business, Jacobs also offers particular insights into the management of critical national infrastructure and defence assets. This includes the importance of compatibility of our national signals intelligence infrastructure with that operated by our ‘Five Eyes’ partners, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – and the risks should access be barred to the EU Galileo, Copernicus and Meteosat networks.

At Jacobs we also live inclusion. Through our close ties to NASA, we understand the critical role that trailblazers such as Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary W Jackson played in establishing the US space programme (NASA, 2021). For the UK space sector to fulfil its potential, we passionately believe that more must be done to include the entire well of UK talent – across genders and social groups – in the UK Government’s plans for space.

Our views on the specific opportunities, threats and possible steps are set out below, responding to the Committee’s questions in turn.

             

  1. What are the prospects for the UK’s global position as a space nation, individually and through international partnerships?

The UKs position as a global space nation will be best defined by the current and future investment into launch infrastructure itself. Globally there has been an increase in satellite production to meet the demand of telecommunication services, however the global launch capability is falling behind. With our access to polar orbits, the UK is not only able to launch satellites but will also retain the ability to continually maintain these constellations once in orbit. This geographic advantage will mean the UK is able to market itself as a space nation with a complete end-to-end supply chain with the production, launch and maintenance of satellite infrastructure. 

The current prospects for the UK must specifically centre around the demand for a UK global positioning system (GPS). This is due to the exclusion from the EU Galileo project due to Brexit and the unfavourable dependency on the US GPS systems. The UK has provided a £500million backing to the satellite network provider OneWeb making use of their Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites. Alongside GPS independence, the outputs of this project intend to support the backbone of the UKs fibre telecommunications rollout within rural and remote corners of the country.

Our current demand for developing our independent satellite infrastructure in UK is well coupled with our prospects of growth within the global space sector. The aspiration to retain a 10% market share by 2030 is ambition that well suits the UKs strong engineering tradition. Furthermore, alongside established clusters in Harwell and Westcott, government and private funding within space SMEs and research institute is continuing to drive growth in the UK space sector.

As a potential spaceport licensee, Jacobs has reviewed the UK-US Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA) and the proposed implementing regulations.  Whilst we recognise the benefits of securing access to US technology through the TSA, we are keen that the Agreement does not hamper the management and operations of future UK spaceports any more than is necessary.  For example, it is not clear from the currently available information how quickly and easily a segregated area can be de-designated once US technology has been removed.  There are also cost implications of the various measures but not clarity as to which parties will bear them. 

We feel that greater detail is required in certain areas, such as the boundaries and interfaces between the respective responsibilities of the UK and US participants, as well as how US participants will retain control of US technical data.  We acknowledge that additional guidance on compliance with the requirements of the TSA has been promised in the Government’s response to the consultation and are optimistic that this will allay some of these concerns.

Beyond the threats, as a space nation the UKs current strengths lie within its internal partnerships between industry, academia, and the public sector, fostering an environment for private sector growth whilst meeting the national demands set by the government. This strong basis of research and development in the UK is beginning to catalyse a highly talented workforce able of supporting future growth of the sector and attracting a global customer base. However, a barrier to future prospects of the UK Space Sector is the current gender imbalance within its workforce. Through not effectively promoting inclusion within the industry the UK is disregarding the enormous skills potential in the short- and long-term supply of talent. Enabling an inclusive stream of talent to this sector is imperative to its growth, ensuring to remove gender and social imbalance through early career STEM engagement and reskilling opportunities.

 

  1. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current UK space sector and research and innovation base?

There are a number of definitions of the space sector. For clarity, Jacobs views the space sector as a three-stage value chain, as follows:

  1. Upstream segment development, manufacture and launch of space assets – (10-20% of total global space market)
  2. Midstream segment – management of space assets - including space situational awareness, collection of raw space data ground stations and data centres (5-10% of total global space market)
  3. Downstream segment – processing and sale of processed satellite data to end users, ancillary services (70-85% of total global space market)

Underpinning all of these segments is the UK’s research and innovation base. This base includes firms in adjacent sectors, such as life sciences, transport technology and telecommunications, who are not specialists in space, but develop and supply components and software applied by firms in in the space sector. R&D investment within the UK Space Industry was found to be at £702m in 2018/19 (know.space, 2020). We believe that there are particular synergies between satellite applications and the Digital, Connected Places and High Value Manufacturing Catapult agendas (The Catapult Network, 2021).

In terms of the upstream segment, the UK is already a global leader in manufacture of satellites, with Glasgow producing more satellites globally than anywhere outside of California (SDI, 2021). This key strength has been built on the UK’s world-class academic research base and early stage R&D support through the UKRI and InnovateUK programmes.

 

Space launch is a core opportunity for the UK – as exemplified by the Launch UK initiative. The world-leading Research & Development into launch vehicle propulsion systems at the Westcott space cluster, and recent approval of a new launch vehicle engine testing facility in the north of Scotland, are key UK strengths in this area. The UK’s northerly latitude also provides ready access to Polar and Sun-synchronous Low Earth Orbits (LEO) which will be occupied by the next generation of earth observation and communications micro-satellites. The identification of 8 small launch sites in the UK – more than any other European country, a rapidly expanding domestic launch sector (Virgin Galactic, Orbex, Skyrora), backed by substantial private equity is a key strength. This national network of spaceports will enable the UK to become a centre of excellence for launch capability and logistics.

 

While demand for small launch to place small satellites into LEO is currently growing, launch of constellation satellites in the long term is likely to be more economically viable using heavy lift vehicles. This is because the next generation of small satellites will be able to independently manoeuvre into position once placed into orbit. Heavy launch is not currently considered viable in the UK – a potential long-term weakness. Demand for small launch is however likely to continue, for replenishment and repair of constellation networks.

 

In terms of the midstream segment, Space Situational Awareness (SSA) – management of assets in space and particularly space debris - is an area where the UK’s booming satellite manufacturing industry may confer an advantage to the UK. Other leading space nations are also be looking to develop this – for example the ESA programme, US Space Force Military SSA programme – so the UK must move fast.

 

The UK’s network of ground stations is comparable in scale and capabilities with similar sized economies such as Germany and France, the UK has fewer datacentres, and the UK’s access to the Estrack network of European Ground Stations may be disrupted by the exit from the EU (USGS, 2021). (It is noted that the data centres agenda is being taken forward by the Digital Catapult). The UK however possesses a strategic advantage as the primary European node of the transatlantic submarine data cable network, via which the bulk of space data is actually transmitted to downstream users across the globe - a potential strength for a future midstream in the UK (UKSA, 2021).

 

The downstream segment, for example direct to home broadcasting, processing and resale of earth observation and satellite data, is more mobile, and may locate anywhere in the world where access to a supply chain and buyers can be economically secured(WTA, 2021). The UK has a highly skilled workforce, research base, world class transport, digital and energy infrastructure - an attractive offer to any innovative sector with high growth potential. The focus on the growth of the space sector within the UK Industrial strategy will help to market the UK as a place to invest in downstream activities – a structural strength.

 

Residual uncertainty around the UK terms of trade, friction on the movement of goods, services and people particularly into and from Europe following the exit from the EU remains a potential weakness. Other leading space nations are investing heavily in growing their own downstream space sectors. Space is a highly competitive and rapidly evolving market. And the UK must be agile, responsive and competitive to stay on the pace, and secure a share of the highly valuable downstream space market.

3.      What lessons can be learned from the successes and failures of previous space strategies for the UK and the space strategies of other countries

 

From our experience working in Australasia and the USA we are able to comment on the lessons learned from the space strategies in these countries.

A lesson that can be learned from New Zealand is that small space launch – exemplified by the Rocketlab facility - is not guaranteed to catalyse a cluster or local economic impact. Due to the lack of an indigenous space supply chain, the majority of services e.g. launch control - were imported for the Rocketlab facility, and few high value jobs appear to have been created in the domestic upstream (asset manufacture and launch) segment. Environmental impacts of launch, including disruption of local agriculture and fishing grounds also appear to have limited the local benefits. There is however evidence that the prestige of space launch has seeded a downstream research and development cluster in Auckland. Simply putting a nation on the space map can, it seems, attract wider investment.

Key lessons from the USA include the need to stimulate sector growth with substantial public investment at an early stage, to provide working capital to enable growth to a point where the firm becomes attractive to private investment (usually Venture Capital, or VC) when this capital can be repaid. For example, SpaceX were beneficiaries of US government loans in their early stages of growth. The NASA educational programme has been particularly successful in encouraging development of STEM skills, bridging the gender gap from primary school level – and providing a long-term supply of space skills and talent upon which the sector is based. Measures to encourage procurement of goods and services from local (US-based) small businesses has also maximised local economic impact.

From this experience we are also aware that the interventions that will help the UK space sector are likely to be similar to other innovative sectors, such as future mobility and automated vehicles. Particular lessons from studies of the Connected, Automated and Electrified vehicles include: the need for public support for early-stage product development (incubation) and critically scale-up to commercial production (accelerators); practical steps to tackle the information and coordination failures that can prevent firms accessing the support that is available; linking scale-up firms with potential investors (in particular Venture Capital), and wherever possible - enabling the market to lead the way.

 

4.      What should be the aims and focus of a new UK Space Strategy?

 

We believe that the aim and focus of the new UK Space Strategy should be to build from existing strengths, targeting emerging segments where there the UK has comparative advantage and potential for growthand look to build on synergies with adjacent innovation sectors, such as digital and connected places, and build strong partnerships with the Five Eyes nations, EU and India.

Technology: We believe that Space Situational Awareness (SSA) is a key growth sector that remains relatively undeveloped. As the LEO space becomes more congested, demand for services to manage and remotely monitor these assets - and growing issue of space debris - is expected to grow substantially. We therefore recommend that Space Situational Awareness, digital twinning and space asset management be a focus of any refreshed space strategy.

Skills and diversity The supply of talent is critical. A continued supply and retention of talent will consolidate the UK’s relative strength in R&D and manufacture of satellites, provide the human capital to enable the market to seize the opportunities arising from space situational awareness, and attract and grow inward investment and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the lucrative downstream segment.

Research funding, investment and economic growth: The UK’s early stage R&D capability. Recent disruption of international research programmes following exit from the EU risk eroding this position, and the new space strategy should aim to mitigate this (Science Business, 2021). Supporting firms in scaling – moving from prototyping to manufacturing has traditionally been less successful in the UK than other nations such as the USA and Germany and should be a key focus.

In terms of economic growth, it should be noted that while the Gross Value Added (GVA) of individual jobs in space R&D in the upstream and midstream segments is very high (estimated at £145,000 GVA per job compared to all sector average of around £50,000) the gross economic value of these segments is only a small part (around a quarter) of the overall space sector. Over three-quarters of the value of the space sector is concentrated in the downstream segment – which is internationally mobile. To maximise the economic growth benefits of space, the new strategy should focus on the downstream sector, addressing trade barriers and regulatory friction to make the UK an attractive location for Inward Investment and FDI in downstream activities such a direct to home broadcasting and the application of Earth Observation data, navigation and positioning data.

Industry: In terms of space manufacturing, the UK has an emerging strength in the manufacture of small launch vehicles, engines (3D printing), and in particular manufacturing of satellites. A key focus of the new space strategy should be to consolidate this position. Applications and technology for Space Situational Awareness (SSA) is a new and evolving area, where the UK should explore growth options. To secure a share of the downstream sector, the new space strategy should aim to promote frictionless movement of talent and private capital, sale of goods, services and leasing of Intellectual Property (IP). Measures to improve the security of UK-registered IP from plagiarism and industrial espionage would also make the UK more attractive to Foreign Direct Investment, alongside a distinctive UK space “offer” to the global market.

Civil and defence applications: Generally, the same space assets and technology - launch vehicles, communications, navigation and earth observation satellites and ground applications may have both civil and defence applications – and can often be considered ‘dual use’A focus of the new space strategy should be synergies between the civil space and - growing - space defence sector.

International considerations and partnerships: In the absence of UK-owned earth observation and meteorology satellite network, securing and optimising access to US and European satellite networks should be an aim of the new space strategy. Given the increased focus on space as a security arena, collaborative partnerships with the Five Eyes partners – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the United States and NATO partners should be a key focus. Particular bilateral partnerships to consider include Australia (UK-Australia Space Bridge) and India. The acquisition of the OneWeb constellation by an Anglo-Indian consortium, and deep economic links between the two countries exemplified by investment in the automotive and engineering sectors (e.g. TATA) suggest that exploration of a closer space partnership with India, the second largest source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the UK after the USA, could be a focus of the new space strategy. This could include exploration of opportunities to work with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the state-owned Antrix Corporation and New Space India Limited.

Place: The Florida Space Coast shows what can be catalysed by the space sector as a maker of place, where a cluster of space-sector businesses can generate spillovers for the wider supply chain, tourism and the visitor economy. While perhaps no other nation has managed to generate the same scale of place-level change through the space sector as the USA, this shows the potential of space as a maker of place. Consideration might be given to how the potential UK space ports – in particular Newquay and Sutherland – could be leveraged as focus for space tourism, with the local space sector generating a sense of place and local distinctiveness’ to catalyse further growth in downstream space and adjacent technology sectors.

Impacts of LEO satellites on research activities: from one aspect, the more LEO satellites are in operation, the more data will be available for research, for example, rates of deforestation, changes in land use, condition of infrastructure and impacts of climate change. This would have clear benefits across multiple policy areas. This should however be balanced against the increasing risk of congestion of the LEO space with assets and space debris. Currently over 128 million pieces of debris larger than 1cm3 are in LEO, and this figure is likely to increase exponentially over the next ten years. The new space strategy should include a clear plan for active debris by the UK alone, or in partnership with other leading space nationsin particular the Five Eyes nations, the EU and India.

5.      What needs to be done to ensure the UK has appropriate, resilient and future-proofed space and satellite infrastructure?

 

In developing a response to this question we believe careful consideration should be given to what is critical national satellite infrastructure, and must be operated and owned by the UK for resilience in the event of national emergency; what needs can be met via resilient partnerships and agreements for use of multinational or national satellite assets (e.g. Galileo GPS Copernicus EO network), and; what may be reliably sourced from the private sector.

Navigation systems: The UK’s Space Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Programme (SBPP) is currently exploring options for the UK’s own space-based navigation system, as a parallel the US GPS and EU Gallileo networks (UKSA, 2021). While UK users are not likely to be barred from using either the GPS or Gallileo networks, we believe that the SBPP programme should be progressed at pace, and a clear strategy identified as soon as possible to give confidence to the market. Any solution identified by the SBPP should ensure compatibility with the GPS networks of the UK’s Five Eyes partners – carefully weighing up costs and benefits of a UK-owned and operated navigation network - and a partnership approach.

Weather forecasting: There is currently no UK-owned weather forecasting satellite network. The UK MetOffice currently uses the European operated geostationary satellite, Meteosat, the European polar orbiter, Metop, and makes use of data from similar satellites operated by US agency NOAA and others (Met Office, 2021). Consideration should be given as to whether a UK-owned and operated weather forecasting network is critical national infrastructure, or whether the required capability can continue to be sourced from the existing arrangements via US and European Partners.

Earth observation, including climate change: The UK’s access to the European Copernicus satellite network may be compromised by our exit from the EU (Copernicus, 2021). Continued access to the Copernicus network should be secured, but alternative arrangementssuch as the proposed Global Earth Observations System of Systems (GEOSS) - should be considered. It is possible that earth observation as a service may soon be sufficiently commercially viable to be delivered by the private sector alone, with limited state support and regulation (Space for Smarter Government Programme, 2021).

Communication (including broadband): The Anglo-Indian acquisition of the OneWeb constellation in late 2020 has provided the UK with a stake in one of the four leading constellation operators – the others being the US StarLink and Amazon networks, and the Canadian Telsat network (OneWeb, 2021). A focus of the space strategy should be development of robust commercial strategy for optimising the economic value of this asset, and its role as potential future critical national infrastructure.

 

 

(June 2021)