Vision Quest: How the UK is Charting a New Path to the Future in Space
The UK is moments away from a historic achievement more than a decade in the making – the first ever vertical rocket launch from its own soil.
For an island country like the UK, with one of the world’s strongest maritime histories, in some ways the next natural destination is space – the ocean above us.
But the journey to space actually starts on the ground.
Lockheed Martin, in partnership with ABL Space Systems, will be among the first companies to support a launch from the SaxaVord Spaceport – one of the country's new vertical spaceports, currently under construction.
And that’s not all. John Parkinson, Head of Programmes (Space), at Lockheed Martin, joined the company last year with decades of experience in the satellite business to oversee the company’s ambitions in military satellite communications. Sitting at the heart of the UK’s National Space Strategy, a national program like, Skynet could have significant benefits for the UK’s space industrial base.
Getting to Space Starts from the Ground
For Lockheed Martin, the focus is on building a network: satellites, ground stations and other services, which are all connected.
“Having strong ground systems to communicate with satellites is key, as some of the largest threats are in that environment,” said John. “As technology evolves year-to-year, the threats to space also evolve, so our technology on the ground and in space should not only be safe from attacks today but should also be as resilient as possible to outpace complex threats as the landscape changes.”
Lockheed Martin can draw on a strong expertise in supporting both space and ground systems.
“Lockheed Martin is a complete, turnkey mission partner,” said John. “We’re capable of supporting the complete end-to-end satellite system lifecycle for military and civil missions.”
Military Expertise Can Help Us Grow a Space Presence – Even for Civil Missions
Many of today’s space companies offer commercial satellites, modified for military use – but there are strong benefits to the opposite approach.
“Resilience and threat mitigation are part of the DNA of Lockheed Martin Space due to our military heritage – that expertise is not added on after, it’s at the core of what we do,” said John.
Building in resilience and threat mitigation is necessary for both military and civil space projects.
Lockheed Martin has built more military satellites than any other company in the world and the lessons learned from the sheer volume of production and the innovation built into these satellites over time can be brought to both military projects like the UK’s future defense space programs and future commercial endeavors.
Investment in Space Means More Jobs in the UK
Helping the UK become a ‘Meaningful Space Player’ is going to take work – more specifically, jobs - and lots of them.
With their proximity to the future spaceport, investing in developing industry and creating work in the north and northeastern parts of the UK is critical.
“Lockheed Martin is serious about having a footprint in the UK and creating UK jobs, as well as developing the UK supply chain,” said John. “Although we reach back to the strong heritage grown at Lockheed Martin in the US, we are a global company and we’re focused on harnessing UK innovation.”
Earlier this year Lockheed Martin shared that analysis concluded that as many as 2,300 jobs could be generated in the UK supply chain from growing their UK space industrial base.
“We’re also looking at partnering with universities in the northeast, not only to develop world class technology, but also to grow our graduate programs and help students grow into the space industry,” said John.
Investment in jobs, infrastructure and education should come from the government and space companies all working together.
“We’re looking to coexist with the existing space infrastructure and talent pipeline in order to get the country more global market share in space,” said John. “And we can do it."