Bringing Space Down to Earth: Susan Johnson Head of Government Affairs at Astrium, the UK and Europe's Largest Space Technology Company, Examines the Case for Government Funding for Space Programmes

By Johnson, Susan | New Statesman (1996), May 20, 2002 | Go to article overview

Bringing Space Down to Earth: Susan Johnson Head of Government Affairs at Astrium, the UK and Europe's Largest Space Technology Company, Examines the Case for Government Funding for Space Programmes


Johnson, Susan, New Statesman (1996)


Gordon Brown's 2002 Budget marked a significant turning point in modern British politics. Instead of focusing on tax cuts, he increased direct taxation.

Despite the fact that more money is available, the battle for funds is intense. In this environment, the space sector has to work hard in order to justify its worth. Many argue that space is an expensive diversion.

However, such sceptics are missing the point. The goal of the space sector is, as with any other publicly funded area, to deliver real benefits for real people. Far from being on the periphery of the chancellor's focus, space must be recognised as a key tool in helping the government to deliver.

In practice, the space sector has been delivering tangible benefits for many years. As well as direct results, space technologies provide important spin-offs. Space travel demands strong, lightweight materials that are heat and impact resistant. These have quickly found terrestrial applications, which improve safety and security. Space sensing and imaging technologies have helped scientists diagnose disease with bio-imagery.

The security services were an early adopter of space technologies. The majority of the UK and NATO's long-distance strategic and tactical communications are carried by spacecraft designed and manufactured in the UK. The next generation of communications systems will offer multi-media services including real-time tactical imagery and videoconferencing facilities, as well as telephone, e-mail and internet access for all troops in the field. Besides up-to-the-minute high-resolution images from all-weather, day-and-night, space-borne radars, highly accurate third-generation satellite navigation systems will enable instant co-ordination of ships, aircraft and artillery.

Defence expenditure has helped to bring benefits to the domestic scene, too. High-resolution images and other information from low-orbit satellites will prove invaluable for environmental monitoring, town planning, agricultural supervision and disaster management.

The UK government is funding the development of a new European satellite navigation service. Acting alongside existing systems, this will provide far greater accuracy than at present, opening up new possibilities for traffic management. …

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Bringing Space Down to Earth: Susan Johnson Head of Government Affairs at Astrium, the UK and Europe's Largest Space Technology Company, Examines the Case for Government Funding for Space Programmes
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