Press release

£200 million boost for UK space industry

The UK’s thriving space sector is to receive almost £200 million of investment to develop the latest space technology

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


The UK’s thriving space sector is to receive almost £200 million of investment to develop the latest space technology, Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts will announce today (Tuesday 16 July 2013) at the UK Space Conference in Glasgow.

The government is investing £60 million in SABRE - a British-designed rocket engine which could revolutionise air travel and reduce the cost of reaching space. Built by UK company Reaction Engines, the technology has the potential to create 21,000 high value engineering and manufacturing jobs, maximise the UK’s access to a £13.8 billion launcher market and drive growth in related technology areas.

The Minister will also announce that space technology company Astrium has been awarded a £134 million contract to develop instruments for the next generation of weather satellites. This is a direct result of increased UK investment in the European Space Agency (ESA) and will be led by a team at the company’s Portsmouth site.

David Willetts will be joined at the UK Space Conference today by Major Tim Peake, who will be the first British astronaut to travel to space in over 20 years.

In his speech, David Willetts will say:

The space industry contributes over £9 billion to the economy every year and supports tens of thousands of highly skilled jobs. But to meet our target of capturing ten per cent of a growing world market we must harness new opportunities in new areas of space.

SABRE has the potential to completely transform how we access space. By supporting this breakthrough technology we are giving the UK a leading position in a growing market of new generation launchers and removing one of the main barriers to the growth of commercial activity in space.

Commenting on the Astrium investment, David Willetts will say:

This substantial contract shows that the UK’s increased investment in the European Space Agency is already paying dividends and getting us ahead in the global race and the space race. It confirms our space industry’s world-class position and will see Astrium working with other leading businesses, scientists and engineers to develop cutting edge satellite technology.

In his speech David Willetts will also talk about Tim Peake’s role in inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers, and give progress on the ESA’s facility at Harwell in Oxfordshire, including the appointment of Magali Vaissiere as its new chair.

The Minister will also highlight Scotland’s role in driving the success of the UK space industry, citing Clyde Space at Strathclyde University for its work with the UK Space Agency to develop satellites the size of a loaf of bread.

Notes to editors:

  1. The latest Size and Health of the UK Space Industry report can be found at

  2. The £60 million invested by government will help to prime the pump for further commercial investment to supply the remainder of the capital needed for full engine development. It will be staged over two years, £35 million in 2014/2015 and £25 million in 2015/2016. The commercial investment will look to capture several times the initial investment as part of a three to five year programme.

  3. For more information on SABRE (Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine), please see the Reaction Engines website at

  4. The government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries’. It set four ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’, published at Budget 2011:

  • to create the most competitive tax system in the G20
  • to make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business
  • to encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy
  • to create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe.

Work is underway across government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel.

Published 16 July 2013