A UK space force will become necessary as the “industrial revolution” in space increases the importance of defending ourselves, industry leaders have warned.
The incoming president of UK Space, Will Whitehorn, said a three-pronged approach is needed for the future of the UK space industry.
Speaking at the UK Space Conference in Newport, he set these out as regulation of space launch, regulation of the satellite industry, and an effective National Space Council that brings government together at all levels.
He added that the military was part of that and “we will see and should see the creation of a space force in the UK”.
The former president of Virgin Galactic said: “My view is that as we go forward, there clearly has to be a complete and utter co-ordination of the way that government at all levels responds to the industrialisation of space.
“We are about to go through an industrial revolution in space, and it will be nothing short of that.
“We are at the stage where a lot of technologies have been developed that can do many of the things – that if you were listening to Greta at the UN yesterday, or you see what is going on in the reality of climate change – a lot of the industrial processes or necessities that we will need are going to be up there, in that hostile environment in space.
“As server farms overtake transport as a source of CO2 emissions, it is important that we industrialise space.
“If we do that then we have to be able to defend ourselves in space, if we know there are non-state and state actors who may be inclined to disrupt in the future the ability of any nation state to operate commercially in space.”
Mr Whitehorn said that a time was coming when having “a co-ordinated approach to space across all of our military is going to be important”.
He explained that it was not the role of UK Space, the space trade association, to be involved in that directly.
But he said its role as the commercial representative of the industry was to make it clear that when dealing with hostile situations, it is better to have somebody out there who is going to protect the interests of all in space.
Graham Peters, chairman of UK Space, said one example would be communication satellites being jammed.
Mr Whitehorn added: “It is clear that these technologies are capable of being taken to a level of relatively unsophisticated use.
“What nation states like the UK have to do is make sure we are ahead of that game. And we only get ahead by thinking about it in advance.”