28 May 2010
News - Vehicles (Good)
UK Wants Virgin Galactic At Home...
...To bolster the UK space industry
by G B Leatherwood
We all know by now that Britain has survived another election and another change of names and faces, most of them not at all familiar to us here in the colonies. Quite often, when the administration changes, so do many of the programs, policies, and priorities the previous administration tried so hard to implement. Sometimes thats a good thing, like cancelling the over-budget, behind schedule, and outdated Constellation project begun during the Bush administration, but sometimes good programs are halted or just dont have the support they need.

In Britain its probably no different, but one thing may have survived: the intention for the UK to remain a force in space development.

According to a BBC news release (28 May 2010), new science minister David Willets is quoted as saying I believe in the space industry. Britain has a comparative advantage and we will carry on backing space. The article furnished some statistical evidence for this position: for example, Britain currently has a 6% share of the global space market; the industry supports up to 70,000 jobs, 19,000 of them directly; and a pre-election strategy report saw further major growth opportunities.

As usual, money remains a problem, but Space Innovation and Growth Team (IGT) leader Andy Green went on record saying that a lot of what was required of government did not involve spending money. The Space IGT, a joint government and industry initiative, was created to involve the entire UK space community by establishing a 20-year strategy for the future of the British space industry.

Green, chief executive of Logica, a business and technology service company employing 39,000 people across 36 countries, told BBC news We all recognize the difficulty of the situation we are in, but weve also made the point obviously that where the government does decide to intervene financially and otherwise, the emphasis should be on growing sectors.

Willets made a further point that is of particular interest to readers of Space Future Journal. He said he wanted to see the UK take part in the emerging global space tourism business. This business is now being spearheaded by the Virgin Group, a British company, but because of legislative peculiarities must first operate out of the US.

Willets was quoted as saying, I personally would love to see Virgin Galactic being launched from the UK. There are a lot of challenges in making that happen, but I think it would be a great pity if we missed out and I want to try to make it happen."

A great pity indeed. One must wonder, though, why it is that a British company needs legislative assistance from its own government before it can operate on home turf.
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G B Leatherwood 28 May 2010
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