It’s been a year since the UK announced its National Space Strategy on 27 Sept 2021, setting out the Government’s key priorities for the sector, focusing on growing the space economy, promoting the values of Global Britain, leading pioneering discoveries to inspire the nation, protecting and defending national interests and using space to deliver for UK citizens and the world. Around the same period, BAE Systems Digital Intelligence also announced the acquisition of the small satellite company In-Space Missions.
 
A few weeks ago, marking our first full year into the collaboration, we announced our first multi-sensor satellite cluster, Azalea, which will be launched into low Earth orbit in 2024 to deliver high-quality information and intelligence in real time from space to military and commercial customers.
 
With so much happening in the past 12 months, World Space Week (4-10 October) seems an apt time for us to reflect on this period for the industry, the current challenges and the sector’s role in creating an ecosystem that drives innovation in support of a more sustainable future.
 

Space skills shortage 

Innovation, as in many industries, lies at the heart of the space sector and the talented minds behind such innovation are equally important. To stay ahead in the New Space Age, growing capacity and diverse digital skills is essential for ensuring continued secure innovation. Yet, the glaring digital skills gap poses a significant challenge to the future of the space sector.
 
The global space economy grew at the fastest rate since 2014 to $469 billion in 2021. To sustain the rapid growth, the sector urgently requires skilled people from all backgrounds to enter and stay in the field, including hardware and software engineers, DevOps talent and cybersecurity professionals. And importantly, they need to be trained to handle highly sensitive data in high trust environments.
 
However, our recent research revealed that for 56% of aerospace decision makers, the combination of attracting and retaining this talent is presenting a major challenge, holding organisations back from becoming more digitally mature. What’s more, over a quarter (26%) cited a lack of diversity - including gender, ethnic background and age - when it comes to recruiting STEM talent as a key barrier.
 
Combined with the pace of job creation versus the uptake of STEM subjects, the digital skills gap is cause for alarm. Without a renaissance in ways of thinking about STEM education and the digital skills required to innovate and stay ahead, the space industry risks losing ground.
 
We have placed considerable efforts into recruitment for all of our Space capabilities, including our recently announced Azalea programme. The Azalea team alone has added 100 people in the past 12-months, including Electronics Engineers, Field-Programme Gate Array (FPGA) Engineers, Embedded Software and Systems roles, all of which will be invaluable to future Space missions. We still have more Space related roles available, so do look at our open positions if you’d like to join us. 
 
Take a look at our latest Space Insight report which takes a look at the urgent need for a talent renaissance in the New Space Age
 

Learn more about digital skills challenges faced by the space sector and how to overcome them

 
 
 

Sustainability in space 

The UK Space Agency recently announced £4 million to “keep space clean for generations” to be awarded to companies, such as Astroscale and ClearSpace who’s solution uses powerful magnets that lock onto satellite docking plates. However, the future of sustainability in space doesn’t just rely on the clean-up of debris currently filling the Earth’s atmosphere, but also in the way future satellites and technologies are created.
 
Reconfigurable satellites are imperative to the sustainability of future technology in space, both in terms of creating greater opportunities for start-ups to literally launch into the market and upload their offering in a matter of months rather than years. But, also for the ease of maintenance and for the lifespan of satellites themselves. With the Azalea multi-sensor satellite cluster, the software can be reconfigured from the ground, meaning new customers can be added and the satellites can be re-tasked depending on what is needed, in turn minimising the need to launch new satellites and generate further space debris.
 

The future

For the UK, the key areas and trends for the industry are focused around delivering services to people that add to a sustainable future led by space, from monitoring the climate to planning routes for ships and planes that use fuel more sustainably. Satellites are imperative to delivering intelligence and advantage from space for innovation and sustainability on Earth.
 
In the future, we will be focusing on the use of robotics to maintain hardware and physically replace assets in space. Adding to our sustainable offering that means we can update satellite software in orbit from the ground and keep the infrastructure delivering for tens of years.
 
Innovation in space has certainly moved fast in the last 12 months – at BAE Systems we believe there is much to celebrate this World Space Week. 
 
This is Space
We're launching a multi-sensor satellite cluster in 2024
During the recent Space-Comm Expo, we announced our exciting plan to launch a new cluster of satellites into orbit in 2024. Watch ITN Business's interview with the key people involved.

Elizabeth Seward

Head of Strategy - Space, BAE Systems
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