Space Economy

The UK’s Space Industry

In 2021 we saw what the space industry can achieve. We heard about Blue Origin’s first crewed mission and it is well-known that SpaceX is launching an increasing number of expeditions. The media has done a great job publicising the work of the bigger players, but what about the rest? There is a whole network of engineers, manufacturers and R&D teams that support the progress of the UK’s Space Industry. They are a critical part of the space economy. But who exactly are they?

In order to better understand this key emergent market, we have partnered with the Satellite Applications Catapult to build a real-time industrial classification (RTIC) of the UK’s Space Economy. Experts at the Catapult have developed a comprehensive taxonomy, which identifies all the pockets of activity that form the space industry and combining this with our AI technology, we are nearing the end of a project to map the UK’s space economy.

Continue reading to learn more about some of the most exciting space companies in the UK:

Space Forge: Manufacturing in space

Space Forge (Cardiff and Newport) is looking to bring manufacturing processes into space. Lower pressures, fewer contaminants, and very cold temperatures are perfect conditions to manufacture speciality materials and components. They also offer revolutionary services like microgravity on-demand and prediction systems for satellites and other space bodies. It was founded in 2018 and with fewer than 10 employees, their work is already impressive.

Reaction Engines: Pioneering Space Access

Reaction Engines (Abingdon) have, for over 30 years, been at the forefront of engineering innovation – including developing SABRE, a new class of aerospace propulsion. SABRE pushes the boundaries of flight both within and outside the atmosphere, making space travel and high-speed flight more efficient, more accessible, more possible.

Skyrora: Revolutionising Launch Vehicles

Skyrora (Edinburgh) is developing the next generation of launch vehicles using advanced manufacturing techniques. They created Skyprint 1, which allows them to print multi-composite elements simultaneously from different materials, and the Kuka Robotic Arm, used for complex activities. They have designed two proprietary supersonic rockets, the Skylark Nano and the Skylark Micro. Skyrora is a key player for the launch vehicle industry in the UK that employs more than 20 staff at its headquarters in Edinburgh and more than 100 in related R&D clusters.

Spire: Impactful Data and Analytics

Spire (Glasgow) was formed by founders from three countries scattered across the globe, united by a common desire to build a better planet. While information about the earth and its environment has traditionally been collected from ground networks and satellite imagery, Spire set out to do something different: create a vast network of affordable nanosatellites that orbit just above Earth’s atmosphere, collecting rich, granular data from the ultimate vantage point.

Sen: Democratising Space using Video

Sen (London) is a data business using satellites to stream videos from space, gathering real-time news and information about Earth and space and making it universally accessible and infinitely useful. Sen’s vision is to democratize space using video to inform, educate, inspire and benefit all humanity.

GHGSat: Pioneering Satellite Monitoring of Greenhouse Gases

GHGSat (London) design, develop, and use emission sensing and data technology for industries seeking to decarbonize their activities and protect the planet we all share.

The problem of SIC for the UK Space Industry

These companies all use different SIC codes to classify their activity. Space Forge chose SIC 51220: Space transport. Skyrora was assigned SIC 74909: ‘Other professional, scientific, and technical activities not elsewhere classified’. Although there is logic in why they selected these classifications, they go nowhere near effectively describing their activities. Space Forge are setting the path to space manufacturing and micro-gravity services rather than just focusing on space transport. In the case of Skyrora, the SIC code does not reference the space industry at all.

These innovative companies demonstrate the problems SIC codes pose to accurate industrial classification. Inaccurate SICs cause institutions huge difficulties when trying to identify and analyse economies, such as the UK’s space industry, and this is what led the Satellite Applications Catapult to partner with us.

Our RTIC is the first-ever quantitative dataset targeting space companies.

The UK’s Space Economy

This hugely exciting project highlights the importance of alternative industrial classification methods and technologies to bring these pioneering companies into the light. If you are interested, keep an eye on our website; we will continue sharing data insights.

About the author

Fatima Garcia

Fatima’s background is in geography and the environment, after finishing her degree in Spain, Fatima decided to start a career in research in the UK. Fatima has a PhD in social and political sciences from Nottingham Trent University.