LONDON — Britain on Tuesday set out plans to book a minor seat in the global space race beside the United States, China, Russia and the European Union with a plan to launch its own satellites from Scotland by 2022.
Setting out his post-Brexit foreign policy priorities entitled “Global Britain in a competitive age,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government said space would become an important commercial and military area of competition.
Without the economic might to fund the vast cost of space exploration, Britain has been largely left behind by the world’s top space powers such as the United States, Russia, China, India and the European Union.
Now Johnson wants a seat – albeit a modest one – in the race, though it was unclear how Britain, whose economy is dwarfed by the United States and China, would fund the bid.
“We will make the UK a meaningful actor in space,” Britain said in its 112-page plan for the future. Britain will “develop a commercial launch capability from the UK – launching British satellites from Scotland by 2022.”
“This will give us greater strategic autonomy and flexibility in terms of what the UK puts into space, and when,” the document said.
Britain’s space capability – crucial for communications, missile defense and global eavesdropping – is largely based on its alliance with the United States and its collaboration with other European powers in the European Union.
The government said space has proved to be one of the UK’s fastest growing sectors since 2010, trebling in size. It now employs 42,000 people and generates an income of 14.8 billion pounds ($20.5 billion) each year.
Britain will establish a new Space Command by summer 2021 to ensure the armed forces have the capabilities to advance UK interests on Earth and in space, the government said.
Britain will seek to keep its place as one of the world’s top cyber powers by developing quantum computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
“In the digital age, sustaining this competitive edge in cyber will be a fundamental component,” the government said. The “UK is well placed to emerge as a global leader in the quantum revolution.”
“The geopolitical role of non-state actors, in particular large tech companies, is likely to continue to grow,” Britain said – a clear reference to Facebook Inc and Alphabet’s Google.
Strategically, Britain cast China as a “competitor” and Russia, Iran and North Korea as hostile states. ($1 = 0.7224 pounds) (Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by William James)
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