Boris Johnson’s 'Galactic Britain'
We are going to launch BT Tower into space and travel from one solar system to another spreading promotional materials about investment opportunities in Peterborough and Slough.
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 …
They did manage to sneak one obvious joke past the proof reader though, which is that the British military apparently has an outfit called "Space Command". ...... Pseudononymous Coward
Command of which space, that perceives and conceives and receives control of future events in all others, is no joke, PC, although whether the British military are pioneering with expertise in the field, or teasing for experts, is something which is probably not ever currently going to be mentioned publicly or outside of Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information circles. Indeed, even within such hallowed cloisters would such likely be rarely, if ever, discussed and admitted, given the advantage it grants to the worthy in the fields of specific collegiate endeavour.
And as for nabbing only 10% of that global market, it would a mistake and a bet one would lose if one was to think and not realise the private sector is more than just capable and enabling of hope ...... or if one was to not think and realise the private sector is more than just capable and enabling of hope.
The trouble with a presently politically inept blighted Blighty is it does not aspire to solely effectively lead enough and thus falls foul of all of those wannabe Caesars, with too little in the way of intelligence in their brains, being told or imagining themselves that they can and thus does it and IT and Media give rise to an unsavoury opposition and wasteful competition and forlorn hopes easily crushed and crashed and trashed.
Seems to me like one of those perfect times for the private sector to do a whole series of those can do things which you may never live long enough to know anything definitive about because it is safer for you that way.
Johnson or any other prime minister past, present and probably future have little to no understanding of technology or science, they are all about the money and whether that money will lead to votes.
Every one of the dozen PM's I have paid attention to since I was at school have made similar speechs and then leave the 'boffins' to get on with it.
Usually while cutting funds, screwing up education in the STEM subjects and appointing ministers for technology who haven't even heard of the spinning jenny.
Johnson or any other prime minister past, present and probably future have little to no understanding of technology or science, they are all about the money and whether that money will lead to votes.
Well Thatcher famously studied and worked for a period as an industrial chemist so your political memory obviously doesn't stretch that far back in time.
Thatcher worked briefly as a research chemist in the 50s before becoming a barrister so science easily took a back seat for her.
She used the little knowledge she had as a lever to get her own way with regard to her policies in regard to the sciences just as she did with everything else.
I remember reading that she regretted studying chemistry and went into law as an entry into politics, her main interest so she hardly had much regard for science and technology it was just a means to an end.
UKland *had* a sort of start towards a "space presence" in the late 1950's. They killed it to save money and because the politicians of the day were mostly trained in the "Humanities" and Law and considered offworld exploitation to be skiffy-geeky BukkRojas robots-and-rayguns stuff - as many of them still do.
Had they had vision slightly better than extreme myopia, they could have had city-farms in high Earth orbit, comet-catching industries, drop-ships fuelling the Terran economy with cheap imports and possibly even scientific outposts on the Lunar Farside by 1990 but they were simply intellectually underpowered and unable to grasp the Big Picture.
It is also true that the USAliens could have built upon their Skylabs to do much of that cheaper, faster and better than UKland could have but neither nation was interested.
Instead, we get twenty-year wars over which big daddy in the sky has the better fan-fiction.
The Dream of Stars is dead.
"Had they had vision slightly better than extreme myopia, they could have had city-farms in high Earth orbit, comet-catching industries, drop-ships fuelling the Terran economy with cheap imports and possibly even scientific outposts on the Lunar Farside by 1990 but they were simply intellectually underpowered and unable to grasp the Big Picture."
And the flying cars. Don't forget the flying cars.
Sounds like just another "de Pfeffel*" to me...
*(a "de Pfeffel" is an unpleasant release of irrelevant noise and foetid noxious gas from a disgusting type of parasite that is known to inflict members of the species known as "Humans." Further reading: see the entry for "Politicians" in the Encyclopaedia Disgustica)
This is basically just a summary of what Boris is already doing, heavily puffed up with codswallop. At best it will nudge the Chancellor's political brain cells during the next Spending Review, and can certainly only last as long as Boris, so the avowed intent to revisit it in 2030 seems a tad humorous. Still, at least it is better than the strategy which saw Black Arrow cancelled exactly fifty years ago, back in 1971.
That is unfair, even on Boris. He and his Whitehall chums have been oiling the wheels of three UK spaceports and putting real cash into space R&D, science and defence. Of course it is our cash he has been throwing out and British industry are spending it for him, but without him and his wagonload of monkeys the cash would not be going there.
I was a bit concerned about the sub-heading "Space is becoming more congested and contested".
I don't know about contested, but the bit we can see, which is 46 billion light-years across, averages only about 5 protons per cubic metre, i.e. only about 1e-42 percent of its volume is occupied, which doesn't seem very congested at all.
Yeah, it's the litter at orbital altitudes you have to get through to reach it that's the problem.
A problem that continues to grow, and isn't going to get any better any time soon. Heck, even if we invest the UK billions (wherever they're coming from) into space litter pickers, nobody's going to pay us to deploy them anyway.
Space clutter a problem?
We have nukes. Loads and loads of nukes. We know where much of the clutter is, we can reliable put a Cassini into a highly complex set of orbits around distant Saturn so volatilising vast numbers of usless orbiting thingies should not be much of a trial.
We'd need to warn the Astronomers, radio, microwave, optical and everything up to gamma-ray, a couple of weeks before Bin-Day so they have time to switch off, shutter and schedule maintenance upon their mechanical eyes but that's just a few emails.
What a sky full of nukes would look like and what the residual detritus, debris and vapours would be is, of course, something for the "boffin" to clarify.
It should be noted that an added advantage to this scheme would be a global effort to remove left-over nukes that no-one is using and that are simply decaying in their silos. We would, for once, be getting some real return for all of the currency and man-years spent on those idiotic contraptions.
Wouldn't that be nice?
What do you mean by "Hell, no!!" :)
A high altitude electromagnetic pulse is produced when gamma rays from a nuclear weapon detonated in space hit the atmosphere, and can cause severe damage to terrestrial electronic and electronic systems across many thousands of square miles.
It is considered a major strategic threat, and you are proposing that we do it to ourselves! See attached icon.
Let's just say that space clutter would be the least of our problems if nuclear weapons are detonated in earth orbit.
You're expecting the PR and coloured pencil departments to get things right? Heh...
Including the fact that building those monsters now would be... a waste. Musk et.al. have dramatically improved the power/size ratio of rocket engines, so everybody + dog is going for the clustered, gimballed and very much throttleable/restartable/re-useable stacks.
After all, as much fun as it was to see the big fireballs of the experimental models, Musk did manage to first land his boosters, then his main stage, and finally a rather big contraption that may one day indeed become a fuly fledged spaceship. Using "small" engines. As do ESA, and all the various "upstarts" in Asia in their large fireworks.
F1's aren't needed anymore. They were meant to send the entire giant Apollo stack to the Moon in one go. Nowadays we can actually send the bits up individually for less and dock/assemble in orbit. Or, if you want to get fancy.... Starship is meant for Mars, but in my eyes makes for a mighty fine start of a Moon base with a couple of modifications...
The European supply ships for the ISS could be collected on-site to be recycled as Mars supply back-packs.
Fit a few out as human-compatible and they may even form the entirety of an Ares mission. Some spare supply pods could carry, instead of supplies for ISS, Ikea-style flat-packed bits for the missions. "Insert part A into slot V6"?
I suppose *someone* at E.S.A. thought of this? And dismissed it as stupid?
"Musk et.al. have dramatically improved the power/size ratio of rocket engines,"
Nope. Pretty much the same as it's always been. He just hasn't been charging all the market will bear. That might be why SpaceX raises an extra couple of billion each year.
SpaceX adopted the approach the USSR did with rocket engines. They went for smaller units and more of them. There's some good reasons to do it that way. The USSR did it as they couldn't get really big rocket motors to behave. It also means machinery that isn't as unique (huge) and some economy of scale as well as redundancy in use.
> F1's aren't needed anymore. They were meant to send the entire giant Apollo stack to the Moon in one go. Nowadays we can actually send the bits up individually for less and dock/assemble in orbit.
By that logic it would be cheaper to pick up your groceries one item at a time during individual trips to the store instead of on one shopping trip.
"F1's aren't needed anymore. They were meant to send the entire giant Apollo stack to the Moon in one go."
Really? Because commercial aircraft are much larger now than in the Apollo days due to the fact that the use of larger aircraft improves overall fuel efficiency and reduces man-hours for flight crews. Same reason a dump truck is used to move gravel rather than 50 or 60 trips in a Mini.
It seems very illustrative of Boris Johnson though, blabbing on about Galactic Britain while people are smacking each other in the face at fuel pumps. I'm not sure if it was out of desperation, complete lack of awareness, or he's just trolling everyone again, it's so difficult to tell with him.
all that waffle about targets and claims I can predict what will happen
Government announces X number of billions to be ploughed into UK space industries
Via various bodies/consultances/government commitees
And then the cash is distributed .. which out of the say 5 billion pledged will be about 150 million with the rest soaked up by various bodies/consultances/comittees all staffed by various government members or relatives or friends..... and some bloke who runs a pub in the village where the ministers 3rd home is
Thanks, I now have 'Bohemian Rhapsody' running around my head.
Makes about as much sense as Boris Johnson's space plans. I can only assume that he makes lots of announcements, and only the ones that generate lots of sustained praise for him are likely to get long term funding. Or am I just a cynical old git?
> ones that generate lots of sustained praise for him are likely to get long term funding
That's just not true.
None of them are going to get long term funding. Those that do generate praise will be mentioned repeatedly and the same phrases used in the next announcement.
This government is just a Markov chain spam generator.
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.
"... 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
> 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 ?
>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
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…..
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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