Why accelerating the UK’s space capability is critical to enhance national security, sustainability, and economic strengths
RAF Fylingdales | National Archives
There has never been a better moment than now to unlock the full range of benefits that space technology can provide.
Without many of us realising, the space sector plays a pivotal role in our daily lives. Virtually all aspects of modern life depend on satellite technology, including communications, media, trade, navigation, and agriculture. Space has therefore become essential to the UK’s national security, sustainability, and economic growth. In an increasingly hostile geopolitical landscape and challenging economic environment, and as a prime contractor to the Ministry of Defence and the UK Space Agency, Raytheon UK is proud to be supporting the UK’s space capability in these three areas.
Satellite transmissions are crucial for our security and our economy, as they provide imaging of the earth for intelligence purposes as well as essential internet and radio communication services. It is for this very reason that hostile actors are increasingly focusing their efforts on space, and Russian cyber-attacks have recently targeted Ukraine’s satellite communications with jammers.
Raytheon UK is responding by investing in space domain awareness – put simply, pre-emptively identifying potential risks and threats affecting space systems and enabling actors to recognise suitable countermeasures. By designing technology such as optical payloads and groundbased sensors, including optical camera systems and radio frequency radars, Raytheon UK is enabling the Ministry of Defence and other prime UK contractors to better detect and track hostile movements and anti-satellite measures. Additionally, Raytheon UK provides vital analytical support for both civil and defence missions via a team of highly-skilled orbital analysts situated in the UK Space Operations Centre on behalf of the UK Space Agency. The Ministry of Defence has indeedrecognised the value of space domain awareness, raising its investment in the Space Domain Awareness Programme to £85m.
Greater collaboration with our allies is also key. As recently highlighted at the Atlantic Future Forum by Roy Azevedo, President of Raytheon Intelligence and Space, we are also committed to boosting transatlantic relations through the exchange of skills, ideas, and technology between our US and UK arms. Space is a growth area for the UK, and international cooperation and investment can lead to thousands of jobs to be created. A great example is the Raytheon AN/FPS-132 family of Early Warning Radars, which includes RAF Fylingdales, that has been providing space surveillance and tracking for over 25 years, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Raytheon Technologies continues to enhance the capability with upgrades to the UK and US radars to Generation 2 standard completed in 2021 and future hardware and software upgrades in development. The AN/FPS- 132 radar provides multi-mission capability for ballistic missile defence, 360° air and space surveillance out to 5,000km, enabling sustainable space operations above the British Isles and contributing to the global space situational awareness picture.
Growing commercialisation of space has led to an increasing number of firms launching thousands of spacecrafts into Low Earth orbit. Two years ago, there were only 1,700 satellites – now, there are over 5,000. As a result, there is a rising haulage of space debris, or junk, including defunct satellites, causing a higher chance of collisions and damage to spacecraft and payloads, disruptions to connection services on the ground, in the air and at sea, and leaving future generations with a space environment choked with litter.
Monitoring the space environment and achieving global space situational awareness is therefore critical. Alnwick- based Raytheon Northern Space & Security, or NORSS, has developed a solution using Low Earth Optical Camera Installation (LOCI) – a bespoke, low-cost, high-accuracy space surveillance and tracking sensor. LOCI can also be tailored to catalogue and characterise objects in Medium Earth orbit and among geostationary satellites. With long-term expectations to house multiple systems in intelligent locations around the globe, this affordable technology is likely to change the face of the space situational awareness market. Raytheon NORSS is the only commercial provider in the UK to deliver orbital analytics and space situational awareness products to the UK government.
Through an Orbital Analyst Operations Centre, known as the Hive, Raytheon NORSS is also ensuring in-flight safety through satellite manoeuvre detection, compliance monitoring of UK-registered space objects and the greater global space population, and monitoring of newly launched objects as they approach operational orbits. This is as important for creating a sustainable space environment as it is for safety and national security.
In addition, Raytheon Technologies is equally committed to harnessing space technology in order to support efforts to mitigate climate change down on earth. For example, Raytheon Technologies has instruments in orbit which provide detailed information on emerging global storm patterns, high-fidelity sea, land and atmospheric data for the monitoring of wildfires, drought, flooding, vegetation health, algal blooms and night-time phenomena.
The global space economy is expected to increase from an estimated £270bn in 2019 to £490bn by 2030, presenting a clear opportunity for British SMEs. At Raytheon UK, we are proud that 50% of the work we have recently undertaken for UK contracts has been in partnership with SMEs and startups.
Our latest business division Raytheon NORSS, a former start-up SME, brings together complementary capabilities, answering the government’s call for larger companies to invest in cutting-edge technologies and newcomers. Raytheon NORSS will now have a platform to access international as well as domestic markets and help field the growth in the North East, where the division is based.
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