Farnborough 2018: U.K. and Europe highlight economic benefits of space

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The U.K. strategy is to promote the value of space-based services in the broader economy, increase exports and attract investment.

FARNBOROUGH, England — The theme at the “SpaceZone” of one of the world’s largest aerospace expositions is that this is a good time to invest and push the technology envelope in space.

An optimistic mood is captured in the United Kingdom’s “prosperity from space” strategy. The nation hosting the airshow is aggressively marketing itself as a friendly ground to develop and launch space ventures. U.K. executives and government officials often describe space as the “next industrial revolution.”

The business has been growing worldwide. A new report from AlixPartners estimates the space market over the past five years has averaged $269 billion, growing more than 5 percent each year.  It is projected to reach $500 billion by 2030.

The U.K. strategy is to promote the value of space-based services in the broader economy, increase exports and attract investment. Many of the companies attending Farnborough — the show runs from July 16 to July 20 — are marketing nano-satellites, launch services, communications and data analytics. The U.K. space sector has been growing at an average of about 8 percent since 2000, which is five times greater than the wider economy over the same period.

The push for government spending and space investments in the U.K. comes as Britain faces challenges negotiating its exit from the European Union — with the industry bracing for potentially damaging economic impact. A case in point is the ongoing impasse over future U.K. participation in the European Space Agency’s Galileo satellite navigation constellation after the E.U. moved to block British companies from working on certain portions of the program.

The U.K. Space Agency has insisted it wants to continue to work with ESA but the Brexit-driven dispute could make things awkward for some time.

ESA has a significant presence at the Farnborough Airshow. The agency recently signed a deal with the European Investment Bank to help “create a level-playing field for European companies to grow and compete globally,” according to a news release.

The European plan is similar to the U.K.’s “prosperity” roadmap — emphasizing “commercialization at every level of the space value-added chain.” That includes space manufacturing, transportation, satellite operations and the development of consumer services based on satellite signals and data.

The U.S. government, meanwhile, will be pitching the value of partnering with American firms. Officials from the Department of Commerce aerospace office and from the U.K. Space Agency will host a talk at Farnborough titled “UK-USA Space Cooperation — New Commercial Opportunities.” According to promotional materials, the U.K. Space Agency will discuss opportunities in commercial space projects. Department of Commerce officials will highlight the recent activities of the White House National Space Council and what the government is doing to lower the barriers to doing business in the United States. A new Office of Space Commerce was recently created to coordinate regulatory, policy and trade promotion.