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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Space is the Big Story At Farnborough Airshow

  C4 last night had an item about Britain's space industry hung round the Farnborough air show. With typical insight C4 assured us that "there was not a hint of austerity" in the business but, in the next breath "budgets have never been tighter"!

   Still generally not as Luddite as most reporting. David Willets, the science minister said that our space industry is growing "as fast as China" (ie 10% over the long term) and, which, I didn't know, that 10% of our high technology exports to China are from the space industry, which certainly suggests their government is serious even if ours isn't.

   Also this
Branson took the stage at the Farnborough Airshow on Wednesday to unveil LauncherOne, a companion satellite-launching business to Virgin Galactic's passenger suborbital spaceflight service.
Like SpaceShipTwo, LauncherOne will be flown into the air beneath a carrier jet and released. Once separated, the vehicle's rocket engine will fire to carry it into space....
LauncherOne, which is designed for cargo only, will be able to put satellites weighing up to 500 pounds into orbit for less than $10 million....
LauncherOne, a two-stage liquid-fueled rocket being developed by The Spaceship Company (TSC) of Mojave, Calif., is expected to debut in 2016. TSC is a partnership of Virgin Galactic and Mojave, Calif.-based Scaled Composites, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman.
   Which looks rather more expensive than SpaceX but its a big and obviously fast growing market.

  Willets again, via the huffpo
UK 'Could Build Spaceport'

Any spaceport - purely theoretical at this stage - would involve working with Europe and the European Space Agency, Willetts suggested...
"We'll be exploring the type of certification needed for space crafts and identifying the essential characteristics of an operational spaceport.
At a gathering of space officials and businesses at the Farnborough International Airshow, Willetts said space was a "rare bright light" for the economy
Willetts said the space industry
•Was worth £9.1bn in 2010/11

•Had grown by £1.6bn since 2009

•Grew 7.5% between 2010 and 2011

•Supported 29,000 skilled jobs....

Presenting the 'Civil Space Strategy' for the next four years, Willetts said the government would continue to support the space sector
The government will continue to invest in space, he said, and confirmed £10m had been by the Technology Strategy Board for space, although that had been announced previously
He said: "The bigger picture, of course, is making sure that space continues to be a key enabler of economic growth – and that’s the central goal of the revised Civil space strategy that I am publishing."

"The document, covering the next four years, focuses on creating new opportunities for industry, bolstering the role of space in the UK’s infrastructure and furthering the National Space Technology Programme."
Willetts also said the Satellite Applications Catapult, one of seven new technology and innovation centres, will be based at Harwell Oxford.
  I am told that all a space port really needs is a long runway, clear airspace. a refuelling lorry and possibly a tracking radar. I suspect Branson's customers would also want something more comfortable than a nissen hut and quick access to Skibo, Gleneagles or some similarly plush residence. In any case the clear airspace bit almost mandates it be somewhere in Scotland.

    Doubtless the government would also spend a fair bit painting signs, doing feasibility studies and congratulating them selves for doing so but that isn't necessary.

    The use of the words "will continue to invest in space", when their record is so abysmal and the minimal £10 million amount does not inspire confidence. They clearly know this is indeed one of our few growing industries and will be willing to take credit if anything happens but that is not quite the same as encouragement.

   On the other hand the admission of its importance does leave them open to pressure that they really ought to do something serious.

  How fast could space industry grow?

  Well China's overall economy is indeed growing at 10% and we could certainly do the same. There are provinces doing 16%.

  The US commercial space industry has been growing at 17.6% with the benefit of a very limited private investment in space prizes- roughly 15% better than the economy as a whole.

  That was before SpaceX cut the cost of launches 20 fold & more in future. I think we could add another 5% each minimum for the SpaceX breakthrough and if a major investment was made in X-Prizes as proposed by UKIP.

  That gives us 15% +5% + 5% plus the base level growth for the entire economy of between 0% (UK, 10% (China), or 16% (best provinces of China). Lets take it as 35% a year.

  At that rate in 18 years Britain's space economy would be worth £2019 billion, about 20% above the entire British economy now. Assuming base economic growth across the economy of 0% we get £505 billion, still about 30% of our now and future terrestrial economy. Assume a base of 16% and we get £4,415 billion.All of these are theoretical but the theory is good.

  If our political classes were to take the opportunity. Nothing too excessive. Not one penny not already being put into the ESA bureaucracy. Not 1% of what is "invested" in "renewables" which can never do anything but cost us more.

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