Landmark UK Space Command to open next week

The UK Space Command is expected to formally open its headquarters inside RAF High Wycombe in the coming days, as the organisation continues to determine the kinds of technologies and capabilities it will field in the months and years ahead.

Speaking at the 2021 Global Air Chiefs’ Conference on July 14, AVM Paul Godfrey, commander UK Space Command, said the HQ facility would open on July 22, and provided further outlines as to the direction of thinking regarding the Vision 2030 strategy.

UK Space Command
Having been formed following the UK's Integrated Review and Defence Command Paper published earlier this year, the UK Space Command has been building up its physical infrastructure. UK MOD/Crown copyright

In May it was reported that UK Space Command would see a HQ building stood up by June 2021 and achieve initial operational capability in 2022.

According to the UK MOD, Space Command has been established as a Joint Command, staffed from members of the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force, the Civil Service and members of the commercial sector. A ten-year, £1.7bn funding package has been put in place for its first decade of operation.

Speaking to delegates at the Global Air Chiefs’ Conference on July 14, Godfrey said the emerging strategy will see the Space Command responsible for roles such as command and control, ISR, space domain awareness, as well as the Skynet satellite programme which will be transferred over from Strategic Command at a later date.

In terms of capabilities that Space Command will field, Godfrey said a series of on orbit capability demonstrators would be organised over the next couple of years to determine the next steps, before a determination as to “which horse we are going to back” for the delivery of on orbit constellations.

Outlining the contested nature and increasing use of the space domain, Godfrey explained that since 1957 over 11,000 satellites had been launched, of which 7,000 remain in orbit with 4,200 still active. In 2020, 1,200 satellites were placed into orbit, with nearly 1,000 following so far this year, he added.

Also speaking at the event was Alexandra Stickings, space strategy lead at Frazer-Nash Consultancy, who detailed of the need for operators to increase space domain awareness to accommodate the growing number of platforms being placed in orbit.

“More satellites lead to more congestion,” Stickings explained, adding that space domain awareness was critical to understanding where satellites were located and avoid collisions.

Further, it was considered that the environment of the space would not see a paradigm shift over the next two decades, rather steady continuation of the increased use of and access to the domain.

“Space in 2040 does not mean space marines. Operating in space in 20 years is not going to be drastically different,” Stickings suggested.

By Richard Thomas