UK space industry booms in recession

The UK space industry is bucking the recession thanks to satellite broadcast and communications, according to a government-commissioned report

The UK space industry has grown by 10 percent a year since 2007, defying the recession, according to a report launched by UK science minister David Willetts.

"The news is positive about our space sector. It's great to see what a strong space sector we've got," said Willetts at a press conference on Monday.

Willetts said that total UK space industry turnover was £7.5bn in 2008/09, with strong employment growth.

"Employment is concentrated in high-skilled graduate sectors," said Willetts.

The report, entitled The Size and Health of the UK Space Industry, found that satellite broadcast has has been responsible most of the turnover since 2007. Satellite communications, equipment supply and support services have also been major income generators.

Satellite communications will go towards achieving government broadband targets, said Willetts. The government wants universal 2Mbps broadband by 2015, a target that has slipped from 2012.

"Satellites can help deliver broadband," said Willetts. "I think people will be pleasantly surprised how many people a satellite can cover."

Willetts told ZDNet UK that the government did not yet have a clear idea how much of the broadband target would be delivered by satellite, and how much by other means, such as fibre optic or copper cable. The minister said that rural broadband in Cornwall, which is to receive a £132m investment from the EU and BT, will show how the broadband target can be delivered.

"Cornwall will be an interesting test case," Willetts told ZDNet UK. "BT will maintain responsibility for delivering superfast broadband, but will use satellites to reach parts of Cornwall."

Willetts said that the satellite Hylas-1, which is due to be launched on 25 November, will provide a clearer picture of how broadband will be delivered. The aim of Hylas-1 is to provide broadband internet communications for the European market.


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