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Towards a UK space surveillance policy

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This report positions a UK space surveillance policy and examines the utility of a nationally assured space surveillance capability. Investment in space surveillance capacity is key to seizing the commercial and diplomatic opportunities offered by space while protecting UK economic and security interests.

 Key findings from the report include:

  • While the UK will need to set out and delineate its ambition in space, the need to understand the environment will be fundamental.
  • Regardless of direction, protecting and growing UK equities in space will depend upon an understanding of the space domain - a space situational awareness that can ultimately provide decision quality awareness. This is true whether those capabilities include space launch, ensuring the operations and safety of current and future space assets and platforms, monitoring compliance with regulation and licencing, identifying malevolent behaviour in space, or establishing the UK as a leading nation for space sustainability to influence any international agreement on the governing of space.
  • Currently the various stakeholders in the UK that have an interest in space are quite fragmented. However, one common requirement that all have is the ability to understand the domain through access to an effective space surveillance capability.
  • The operational capability to provide meaningful data and a recognisable awareness of activity in space is not overly challenging from a technical perspective, nor particularly costly in comparison to current investments in space, and yet such a capability would position the UK as a global market leader in cross-sector space surveillance. 

Policy recommendations include:

  • The establishment of a nationally assured UK space surveillance capability to understand the space domain. The capability would comprise a cross-sector space surveillance operations centre to collate all existing UK sensor data with available global space surveillance data and to enhance this with a dedicated sensor for Low Earth Orbit satellites – a capability that can be scaled to provide surveillance of other orbits and deliver a wider range of space surveillance products and services if required.
  • To support this, government departments and commercial partners need to be enabled to aggregate budgets to invest in the necessary infrastructure to establish a common, nationally assured UK space surveillance capability and create a strategic leadership body to oversee the budget and manage UK space surveillance operations.