Written Evidence Submitted by Athena
Space and its associated capabilities are strategically vital to civil, commercial, security and defence policy ends. If the UK takes a considered procurement approach to major programmes, then by 2030, the UK will have built a resilient UK-based sovereign space sector.
It is important to develop a sovereign based PNT solution, interoperable with Five Eyes nations, that meets the needs of the UK CNI and public demand and contributing to UK prosperity.
The UK must commit to some core programmes. That could include a sovereign UK Position, Navigation and Timing system and secure satellite communications. We should consider a National Space Operations Centre, a Space Domain Awareness delivery vehicle and a National Space Academy.
We need to see a modern industrial policy and procurement strategy that supports a diverse supply base with multiple redundancies ensuring the UK does not inadvertently create a monolithic environment which stifles innovation and reduces resilience
It is imperative that the UK develops its own intellectual property with regard to UK military satellite communications systems.
In the even that European nations, namely France and Germany, solely own the IPR generation and delivery of UK military satellite systems, this will be severely detrimental to the economic prosperity of the UK.
Failure to develop IPR generation and delivery of UK military satellite systems will undermine STEM capability, impact on UK jobs, reduce engineering capability, and negatively affect SMEs.
Ultimately, it is vital for both macroeconomic prosperity and microeconomic prosperity.
The scale of the task of projecting and protecting interests in space means that alliances will be key. The UK could increase its international influence by:
Additional information on Space Domain Awareness can be seen here.
Unless the UK makes a full strategic assessment of space within the context of the IR and subsequently invests in prioritised strategic capabilities, the UK risks being left behind by competitor nations, and it will miss the opportunity to develop unique strategic capabilities which complement those of its Five Eyes partners, particularly the US, and wider NATO partners.
The UK’s allies are increasingly concerned about the resilience of their space-based capabilities. The UK could increase its international influence by delivering critical parts of joint, layered architectures with the US and Five Eyes partners, as these architectures give greater resilience and performance.
Space-based communications, surveillance, and Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) are critical enablers of economic activity as well as foreign, defence, and security policy outputs.
The space domain is a key threat vector. Risks in and to it are increasing. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) produces an excellent threat assessment each year (see https://www.csis.org/analysis/space-threat-assessment- 2020).
The UK Satellite Launch Programme (UKSLP) provides a foundation for a military ‘Operationally Responsive Space’ (ORS) capability.
Item 1. Demonstrates the current counter-space weapons threats. CSIS particularly notes the increasing investments by China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea in electronic counterspace weapons, cyber disruption, non-kinetic physical attacks, and co-orbital anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons.
In addition to enabling critical sectors, space programmes offer direct economic benefits. Maintaining a viable competitive market for them will be vital for growing the space sector.
Space is important for the UK’s soft power. The UK’s £150m ODA-funded International Partnership Programme (IPP) has funded projects in over 40 countries, with direct social, economic, environmental and humanitarian impacts on 10 UN SDGs. Space science is a global endeavour and UK institutions are cooperating with their peers in countries across the globe.
Further information on the impact of soft power elements can be seen in Athena’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee submission here.
Space can be an enabler of soft power and global influence.
The European Commission continues to increase its investment in and governance of strategic European space programmes. These include the Galileo space-based PNT system, the Copernicus Earth observation programme, and space domain awareness initiatives.
Given Brexit, the UK’s opportunity for involvement in and benefit from these programmes is now significantly reduced. For example, Galileo is now dominated by France, with the secure elements of the system, which serve a unique purpose for critical defence platforms, supplied by French companies.
Having access to markets beyond Europe will be crucial to the UK’s future prosperity, security, and global influence. It is therefore important to consider alternatives to existing ways of operating that have served the UK well but are unlikely to be fit for future purposes. This is particularly important in a future where alignment across military and industrial needs, and access to key growth markets, will prove vital.
Developing and utilising the UK’s existing space assets to realise a lower-cost, rapidly deployable, sovereign capability to ensure much needed back up and independence in the positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) requirements that underpin the UK’s 21st century critical national infrastructure, while presenting a unique offering to our allies.