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£100m boost for UK space sector
The space sector contributes £9bn a year to the UK economy. © UK Space Agency

£100m boost for UK space sector

The UK government is investing £100m in a National Satellite Testing Facility (NSTF) on the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire. The facility is due to open in 2020.

The UK government has announced a £100m funding package mostly dedicated to the creation of a National Satellite Testing Facility (NSTF) on the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire. An additional £4m is being invested in a National Space Propulsion Facility (NSPF) to develop and test space engines at Wescott Venture Park in Buckinghamshire.

Part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, the funding boost is intended to ensure that UK industry can competitively bid for more national and international contracts.

Due to open in early 2020, the new NSTF is described as a world-class facility for the assembly, integration and testing of space instruments and satellites, positioning the UK to capitalise on the estimated 3,500 - 10,000 satellites that are due to be launched by 2025. It is also intended to facilitate the construction of bigger and more technologically advanced satellites and remove the need for UK companies to use test facilities located outside the UK.

The NSPF will allow companies and academia to test and develop space propulsion engines, alongside a new facility for Reaction Engines where the SABRE air-breathing rocket engine will also be tested and built.

The announcement follows the recent introduction of the Space Industry Bill designed to create new laws and a regulatory framework to enable small commercial satellite launches from UK spaceports.

The Bill includes new powers to license a wide range of spaceflight activities, including vertically-launched rockets, spaceplanes, satellite operation, spaceports and other technologies, and a comprehensive and proportionate regulatory framework.

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