POST - Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

UK Commercial Space Activities

Published Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The UK space industry had a turnover of £11.8bn in 2012/13.1 By 2030, the UK Government and industry want this to grow to £40bn. In December 2015 the Government published the UK’s first National Space Policy, which sets out its vision for achieving growth. This POSTnote describes the UK space industry and potential barriers to growth.

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British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake


Forty years ago government was the main customer of the UK space industry. Today, the space industry provides commercial services to a vast range of sectors. Almost all television content passes through a satellite at least once before it reaches the home and the use of satellite navigation in transport is ubiquitous. In 2012/13 the space industry contributed £5.1bn to GDP (comparable to the rail transport sector) and grew by 4.1% (annual growth has averaged over 8% since 1999/2000).

Along with spacescience activities, the space industry plays a key role in inspiring young people to take up scientific careers.In recent years, government and industry have taken steps to promote the UK space industry. The Space Innovation and Growth Strategy (IGS), was first published in 2010 and updated in 2015. A key achievement of the IGS has been the setting up of the UK Space Agency (UKSA) to oversee all UK civil (non-military) space activities, as well as a network of bodies to promote growth. This note describes:

  • the UK space industry’s activities
  • applications of satellite data
  • different types of satellite and their main functions


  • Government and industry want the UK space industry to capture 10% of the global space economy by 2030.
  • The Government is developing a regulatory regime that will permit the creation of a commercial spaceport in the UK by 2018.
  • The development of small satellites (weighing less than 500 kg) is reducing the cost of space operations.
  • Insurance requirements, skills shortages, export controls and limited availability of orbits and transmission frequencies all need to be addressed in order to enable growth.

Image credit: BIS, CC-BY-ND

POSTnotes POST-PN-0514

Authors: Chandrika Nath; Catherine Watkinson

Topics: Companies, Industry, International law, Research and innovation, Science

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The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology produces independent, balanced and accessible briefings on public policy issues related to science and technology.