Space is a rapidly growing agenda of UK government, and the plans set out in the National and UK Defence Space Strategies only reinforce this. We believe space is now at a tipping point, moving from plans into action. We’ve identified four key areas that we feel need action today, to ensure UK meets its space ambitions:
Sustainability in Space Operations
Point 6 of the UK’s ‘Ten-point plan’ is a bold one: “lead the global effort to make Space more sustainable. While space sustainability covers many angles, from space junk to rocket fuel, from our experience sustainability starts with the supply chain. Between 60% and 80% of organisations’ emissions are locked in its supply chain. From what we’ve observed the Scope 3 ‘behind the scenes’ carbon impact is not the focus, and the more explicit yet smaller factors such as fuel are the areas under the spotlight. Ambitious plans such as launches in the UK, new satellites and multiple infrastructure projects will require input from multiple suppliers and understanding the impact of the space supply chain on the environment will be critical to ensuring the UK Space effort is a leading one.
Capability and Skills
Outlined in the National Space Strategy is the ambition to create the ‘National Space Operations Centre.’ This is aimed to bring together military and civilian Space capability to enhance the UK’s progress and development. This has never been done before and therefore raises a number of challenging questions around the organisations involved desired outcomes and experts the UK has to offer. All these challenges start with the experts at the centre engaging talent from different organisations. From our experience setting up complex, innovative Government centres, we understand the importance of finding the right people, with the right skills.
This is not a new challenge; the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Nuclear Fusion programme, has to bring in experts from all around the world and create a strong capability within the UK’s centre. To date, 4C has supported the Authority to establish contracts with many industry experts, working closely with them to understand what capabilities are missing and where new capability is needed.
A key construct that emerged from the Defence Space Strategy is ‘Own, Collaborate or Access.’ It is seen as being critical in maximising the benefit of the £1.4bn budget allocated to new capabilities. However, as the UK is finding its feet in the ‘Race to Space’ the budget could easily be consumed if Own, Collaborate or Access decisions are not executed effectively. The ‘Own, Collaborate or Access’ construct needs to be underpinned with an effective procurement strategy, centred around some of the following themes:
- Defining requirements – what skills and infrastructure are required
- Priorities – where to focus efforts first
- How to collaborate with industry to achieve the overarching strategic goals
- How to develop UK capability utilising experts such as DSTL & Academia
- Supply Chain design taking account of opportunities and risks
- Sustainability strategy
Supply Chain Design
A clear message outlined in the National, and Defence Space Strategy is for the UK to ‘take a leading role on the international stage’ and doing this under British businesses. This ambition is one that will disrupt the current supply chain that heavily relies on US industry partners. The first UK space launch is an example of this, relying on Virgin Galactic (US Listed) for a means to launch. There’s no doubt transforming the supply chain would be a great success story for the UK, indeed the UK Government are stimulating the private sector to innovate and drive change to ensure the UK are seen a leader in space development, therefore affordability and capability is vital. A portfolio level strategy and key industry collaboration, alongside re-designed procurement processes is needed to achieve this ambition. There’s no doubt that UK industry has progressed massively in space, as well as several rising new entrants in the sector, so this ambition may be very achievable. However, it is the execution that will determine the success of the changes.
4C delivers procurement and supply chain services to a vast array of clients, in both the private & public sector. The extensive knowledge and experience of our people combine with the latest process and technology innovations to provide clients with transformative solutions and sustainable results. If you’re interested in discussing the future of space, or any terrestrial challenges with us, please get in touch.