back to article UK.gov presents its National Space Strategy: Space is worth billions to us. Just don't mention Brexit, OK?

UK government has published its National Space Strategy [PDF], a document full of big ideas but according to some, no new funding. A cynic might wonder if the document has more in common with the Green strategies trumpeted by the regime of current Prime Minister Boris Johnson, such is the amount of recycling contained within …

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    1. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

      Re: Black Arrow

      600 "leaders" traditionally trained in "Humanities" and the Law aided by some weird bunches of Peers and 30-or-so superstitious god-botherers are not exactly the best people to see the Big Picture or to determine whether making the Children of Man immortal and ubiquitous in the Human Galaxies should be a priority for our spending plans.

      Every time UKland gets a bright scientific or technological idea, the small minds kill it or sell it overseas for a minuscule fraction of what its long-term worth would have been.

      Getting off-planet would have been cheap had we done it back then.

      Cheaper than endless wars.

      1. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

        Re: Black Arrow

        "... or to determine whether making the Children of Man immortal and ubiquitous in the Human Galaxies should be a priority for our spending plans."

        Hint: it *SHOULD* be. Indeed, getting off-world and making the Human Galaxies should be the only long-term plan and priority of the entire species. Everything else should, and if properly done *would* fall out of that scheme.

  1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    the space sector is "worth" over £16.4bn per year, according to the document

    What they don't say is the majority of that is Sky Sports and similar pay-TV stuff. (Sky Group Ltd 2018 turnover £13,585M)

    1. Justthefacts

      Re: the space sector is "worth" over £16.4bn per year, according to the document

      Indeed. And most of the (geostationary) satellite TV market is going to disappear over the next 10+ years. It’s legacy tech.

      Today’s consumers want 100Mbps internet with low latency. Tomorrow’s will want 1000 Mbps.Satellite TV can’t do better than 300millisecond latency and is satisfied at 30Mbps for the whole multiplex.

      Once everybody has broadband (and most do) the only reason for satellite broadcast is to use what is already up there. Football on Sky rather than Netflix is a purely contractual question.

      Sky TV will still be a thing, it just won’t use satellite.

      Satellite TV will continue to be implemented for South America for a bit, but they don’t expect to pay very much. Africa leapfrogged that technology ages ago, straight to terrestrial mobile comms.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: the space sector is "worth" over £16.4bn per year, according to the document

        The art lobby tried the same claim here.

        The "arts" are worth umpty billion to the local economy = they added up all the cable TV / Netflix / Amazon subscriptions and that was more than they wanted to build a new art gallery.

        So obviously a profit for the taxpayer

        1. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

          Re: the space sector is "worth" over £16.4bn per year, according to the document

          If a seat at the Opera costs £100 [I don't have a clue but that seems like a fair median price to a nye-kulturny such as me] and if there are perhaps a million people buying tickets per year [100 per venue, 100 venues and 100 performances each year per venue] then that "brings in" a hundred million pounds per year.

          My numbers are possibly conservative by at least an order of magnitude in the total. Again, I haven't a clue, really, but I'd suspect the number of venues, seats and performances are low by factors of at least two each. If so then we are talking about the region of £800,000,000 or more per annum.

          Just from Opera.

          Throw in multi-millions of pounds for daubs of paint on canvas every so often [often enough to keep the wealthier and more ostentatiously furnished and snootily staffed auction houses in business], the Theatres [admittedly, these may Venn-diagrammatically overlap with Opera and Pantomime] and other sources of income and "billions of pounds added to the local economies" is not too far a stretch.

          It does not even matter that many of those millions of ticket-buyers mentioned above are repeat customers, the same people going to the Opera weekly, nor that those Opera-lovers may overlap with art-buying, theatre-going and other activities. All that matters is that cash is moved around.

          And, as the Great Pandemic showed us last year, tens of thousands of jobs are supported by "the Arts". Most may only pay a few thousand annually per person but that still adds up to hundreds of millions pumped into the economy by thousands of people buying deep-fried Mars bars and pizzas.

          The Arts may often be trite, trivial, nonsensical trash [such as an unmade bed or a can of human waste] but as a part of Life it does keep the money flowing and the people entertained.

          If you include the TV and movie industry, it keeps *lots* of money flowing, even if most of it does go towards that Mouse.

          The Arts may never be as important as ball-moving sporting events but collectively they do do some good.

  2. Howard Sway Silver badge

    Boris Johnson’s 'Galactic Britain'

    Good idea - send him off in a rocket to negotiate a trade deal with the Andromeda galaxy. It's where the new opportunities really are, and we can finally free ourselves from the shackles of the "Failing Milky Way".

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Boris Johnson’s 'Galactic Britain'

      Brexit 2.0?

      Step 1. Capture a Star Whale

      Step 2. ???

      1. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

        Re: Boris Johnson’s 'Galactic Britain'

        A small niggly question, if I may?

        How do we get millions of UKlander types up to the Whales?

        Please, no one mention the Severn Bridge.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Boris Johnson’s 'Galactic Britain'

          Build more windmills. Store the power in all our electric cars, rotate the nacelles vertically through 90o then reverse the polarity of the neutron flow and fly the whole country up :-)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boris's pie in the sky

    We haven't got any bottles big enough to launch the rockets from.

  4. rossglory

    pie in the sky

    the dimwit in downing st can't even deliver petrol to my local petrol station never mind delivering satellites into space. this will be another titanic success.

  5. martinusher Silver badge

    There's a reason why large rockets are launched from out of the way places

    Space launches are usually routine but the fact remains that you're still lighting the fuse on many tone of fuel and oxidizer which is why everyone tends to launch from out of the way places. Something to do with "What goes up may well come down -- unexpectedly". These out of the way places also need to be not too far from civilization because all of that material -- rockets, fuel, payload, whatever -- needs to be easily transported to the launch site.

    Off the top of my head I can't think of anywhere in the UK that's suitable as a launch site that wouldn't pose a danger to a densely populated area or annoy the neighbours due to either the potential for debris to land on them or interference with their air traffic.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: There's a reason why large rockets are launched from out of the way places

      > I can't think of anywhere in the UK that's suitable as a launch site...pose a danger to a densely populated area or annoy the neighbours

      Surely there must be some remaining Labour voting areas, perhaps in the North ?

    2. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

      Re: There's a reason why large rockets are launched from out of the way places

      According to the first Martian colonist, Mr. Damon, that is also why J.P.L. was parked way out in the boonies.

      There are also valid reasons for not launching from places much north of the Equator.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: There's a reason why large rockets are launched from out of the way places

        >that is also why J.P.L. was parked way out in the boonies.

        It was in the 1930s, it's now the nice suburb of the very posh Pasadena suburb of LA

        Why the USA chose to host its Nazi rocket scientists in Alabama is less of a mystery

    3. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

      Re: There's a reason why large rockets are launched from out of the way places

      "Off the top of my head I can't think of anywhere in the UK that's suitable as a launch site ..."

      Well, as I sometimes quietly mumble when the question of storage sites for nuclear waste comes up : "There is always the Houses of Parliament."

      No one useful or valuable would be harmed by aborted launches or "rapid, unplanned disassembly of the vehicle".

      No, the West Country, though seen as a vast, uninhabited wasteland suitable only for multi-tens-of-millions of pounds fourth homes by the Parliamentarians is not suitable as the French may not like the idea of being a dumping ground for partially successful launches. Nor are the grouse-moorlands of the Northern Shires nor the Anglian desert suitable, for much the same reason.

      Nope, the safest place is Parliament. Launch from there and every single mission would be guaranteed to work flawlessly. Those with second and third homes under the flight paths would make sure of it.

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: There's a reason why large rockets are launched from out of the way places

      Think polar orbits. Of course if Scotland goes Indyref then that's ruled out.

  6. Sam Therapy
    Thumb Down

    Another excuse for Johnson to cosplay

    Buzz Shitehouse - To insanity and beyond!

  7. Binraider Silver badge

    The exploration of space, if not for political PR reasons was and is only going to be driven by commercialisation. GPS, Data, imaging, sensors. Possibly even power generation. It's Hard to see any other commercial route to go any further that makes sense at a scale for anyone but the uber-wealthy.

    1. Justthefacts

      Agree with the sentiment…..

      But unfortunately your list of commercially viable ideas isn’t great long-term.

      GPS using satellites is a strictly past/present not future technology. It’s only needed until better smaller atomic clocks and gyros come along. Broadly speaking, all the required technologies now exist and are in miniaturisation and commercialisation phase. Chip-scale atomic clocks are a mature tech, the rest will be here within 10-15 years max. *Way, way, way* before Galileo reaches Full Operational Capability anyway.

      https://www.gps.gov/governance/advisory/meetings/2019-06/burke.pdf

      Data….mmm…geostationary telecoms has been ticking along for decades, but is now easing into obsolescence with ubiquitous 5G / 6G in the next decade or two.

      Probably LEO constellations like Starlink will kick things up a gear. But I struggle to see this as more than a medium-term solution (ie next 20-30 years). Ultimately, the amount of radio spectrum is fixed, but is multiplied by cell-size. No space-based solution can reduce cell size below 10km even in fantasy-land, if it is 100km up. Terrestrial can have a million times more cell density if you are prepared to install the infrastructure, and that will *always* win in the end.

      Imaging….is needed, and will continue to be. But there are *hundreds* of imagers now up there. Everyone wants their own radarsat for political independence reasons. But commercial? We have all we need.

      Sensors - like what, and why? More EU Copernicus rubbish? If you like, I really don’t care any more, it’s their money. Measure the wind speed with a frikkin’ laserrrrr that doesn’t actually work in a vacuum ;) But commercial, it ain’t.

      1. Binraider Silver badge

        Re: Agree with the sentiment…..

        Most commercialisation going any further than we already have is either going to be tourism for the super rich, or, possibly mining for certain rare resources if the transport cost stacks up. The semi-obvious question is Helium-3, which theoretically speaking is easier to build a working fusion reactor for; and as such might have a value even given insane delivery costs.

        Given that moving a tonne to orbit is way into the £M territory despite recent advances, mining anything common doesn’t really add up.

        Comms wise, people have been jamming more data into the same space for the last hundred years. That’ll probably continue. I grant terrestrial is always going to be more capable, but “good enough” cover on orbit in lieu of roadworks/cables is not without advantages in Urban areas that are increasingly intolerant to disruption and/or tough to upgrade. And a definite advantage for low-density areas where installers aren’t going to invest lots to connect a few customers.

        Sensor wise - you may be surprised by some of the use cases now forming by pointing down rather than up. Police work (grim) e.g. looking for hastily dug graves is a thing (image recognition over time problem). Condition monitoring of big, distributed assets (think pipelines, power lines). LIDAR is a phenomenal capability (albeit aircraft mounted is like with your cell example, the close you get the better it is). Stereo imaging is available by merging data from multiple satellites too.

        1. Justthefacts

          Re: Agree with the sentiment…..

          I can’t think that returning Helium3 from the Moon is ever going to be cheaper than extracting from Earth. Even at current prices, *if* fusion worked, He3 would return 30x value in energy sold. Fusion is hard, but this isn’t the reason why - a solution looking for a problem.

          On cramming data into spectrum, there’s a bunch of technical stuff why that’s wrong (like MIMO not working from orbit, and water-vapour/oxygen absorption becoming dominant). But more practically and convincingly:

          Some of the major satellite companies (Intelsat, SES) are now better valued as the spectrum they own, being sold to the terrestrial 5G operators. $15billion for just one tranche. That says a lot about the value of a MHz of spectrum.

          https://www.broadbandtvnews.com/2020/02/06/intelsat-to-share-in-14-9-billion-c-band-compensation/

          There are certainly new use cases for sensors, and I suspect this will drive a lot of the market over the next twenty years. But as the price-to-orbit drops, in fact how much difference is there between a cubesat/flatsat launched to LEO on a Falcon9, compared to a set of high-altitude drones lofting eternally on solar power? Squint at them from a distance and they could look quite similar…..

  8. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    It's in the Safe and Secured Magic Money Tree, of course. That's a Sterling Fact

    But where's the money, Boris?

    That question is easy enough to answer, for the solution is provide/published in the National Space Strategy [page 10]

    It is conjured up and churned out for laundered extravagant spending by recipients in the very convenient traditional way in which basically all flash fiat cash and secret slush funding money is supplied and pumped and dumped into the mainstream as a boost to the "economy" from the likes of these new invented quantitative easing spigots .... private finance through space- oriented venture capital funds, such as Seraphim Space Investment Trust, supported by the British Business Bank

    The further secret that many do not know though, for it is not anything anyone would ever forget, as it very easily crashes and destroys fancy fiat paper capital systems, is the bounty is for lavish agreeable spending and not for accumulating and banking where its perceived wealth and presumed power stagnates and putrefies and permits others to take liberties and make presumptions and assumptions about the direction of its boundless energy/future great use.

    Was nobody listening to Andrew Carnegie whenever he relatively recently revealed the fact, although not in these exact words ..... Anyone who dies rich, dies disgraced.

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