As UK fires-up private space industry, Space Camp Accelerator launches

Mar 29, 2018 · techcrunch.com

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The UK government recently passed the Space Industry Bill, covering the basics like spaceflight licensing, insurance requirements and safety commitments. It didn’t make much of a splash when it was announced, but it’s a huge move for the UK as it laid the regulatory groundwork that will be needed to create an operational spaceport, potentially by 2020. Some £10 million has been earmarked to build the spaceports and complementary projects, and the UK is also set to create the world’s first fully commercial astronaut-training ground, with construction expected to start later this year.

A new UK spaceport would actually make it the first such port in Europe, since the European Space Agency’s (ESA) is located in the not-very-European-location of French Guiana in South America.

The UK is already in a good position. Government figures suggest that a quarter of all telecoms satellites are "substantially built" in the UK. It hopes now to expand that to make the UK a "one-stop shop" for the private space industry. A big component of this will be, as the bill said, the opportunities afforded by "using satellite data and machine learning technology to support the rollout of charging points for electric vehicles," for example.

This is creating a rich new environment for startups, entrepreneurs and, crucially, investors. The cost of building and launching a satellite has fallen from more than $100 million to less than $1 million in recent years. This makes it a new reality for startups and makes the spacetech sector increasingly attractive to venture capital investors.

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