Over the past few years, the Conservative Government has made the promotion of the UK space sector a key pillar of its plans for the country’s economic and scientific leadership. The development of sovereign launch capabilities was already key, but rising geopolitical uncertainty — stoked further by the war in Ukraine — has added even greater urgency as the ability to respond both as part of a coalition and autonomously has gained increased importance.
Former science minister George Freeman — one of the many resignations from Boris Johnson’s government last week — was a staunch supporter of the various companies developing UK launch operations.
The space industry will contribute to the transformation of the UK economy — by bringing high-tech jobs to diverse areas of the country, and by enabling us to forge new connections with other nations as a global hub for launch. And that’s not to mention the implications for national security.
The loss of Mr Freeman to the science brief will be felt keenly. Progress is likely to stall until stability returns to Westminster, and Freeman’s former post remains vacant, despite his offer to return. We can only hope that a new prime minister will install a successor who is similarly motivated to encourage the growth of the UK space sector.
The early signs are worrying, though, with science and innovation generally – let alone space specifically – featuring remarkably little in the priorities of the Conservative leadership candidates to have come forward so far.