Amplifying space’s potential with quantum



Amplifying space’s

The stars are aligned for accelerated growth in the UK’s space
economy, thanks to an active venture capital community, close
collaboration, and a government that’s increasingly cognizant of
quantum computing’s potential. Already, startups in the home-grown
space industry are pioneering research that demonstrates the sector’s
cutting-edge and world-leading capabilities.

Just take aerospace
Space Forge.
The firm is developing a manufacturing hub that will travel in and out
of Earth’s atmosphere to enable the novel production of semiconductors
and alloys in microgravity. By working in space, it can benefit from a
purified environment, lower pressure, and extreme temperatures.
According to a BBC
article, Space Forge is one
of a number of companies worldwide vying to make
valuable products in the weightless conditions experienced in space.

There’s also
Eutelsat Group, which is the newly combined
company of geostationary orbit
(GEO)-operator Eutelsat and low-earth orbit (LEO)-operator OneWeb. The
company operates the second-largest fleet of satellites in the world,
making up 85% of all UK satellites in orbit. The company “is the
world’s first GEO-LEO satellite operator with a satellite and ground
network operations center based in London,” says Gareth Alston,
director for UK government affairs at Eutelsat OneWeb.

To fuel growth of companies like Eutelsat Group in its space sector,
the UK has committed £2.5 billion to developing quantum technologies,
doubling its current investment as part of its new quantum strategy
from 2024 to 2034. With quantum’s ability to exponentially increase
computing power and revolutionize industries from health care to
space, it offers countless possibilities that are yet to be explored.

The
UK
government

has placed quantum technologies at the core of its mission to become a
science and technology powerhouse. In its policy paper,
National
Space Strategy in Action
, the government says it wants to build “one of the most innovative
and attractive space economies in the world.”

Space technologies are critical in our everyday existence. Satellites
orbiting 160 km above the Earth keep people connected, ensure national
security, and allow scientists to analyze and forecast the impacts of
climate change.

With the global space economy projected to reach £490 billion by 2030,
the UK published its
National
Space Strategy

in 2022 and the aforementioned National Space Strategy in Action in
2023. Both policy papers provide details of deliverable policies and
products to nurture long-term confidence among commercial business and
investors in the UK’s space industry.

What can space offer quantum computers that Earth cannot?

Worth over
£16.4
billion

per year, the space sector is a vital part of the UK’s economy,
employing over 45,000 people across 1,590 companies. Its history
stretches back to the 1940s when British engineers started exploring
plans for a suborbital spacecraft. The UK is now globally renowned for
its strengths in space manufacturing technologies, particularly
spacecraft, highly complex payloads, and small satellites.

The UK’s space industry is backed by a strong scientific and academic
community, with 23% of graduates in the country coming from STEM
(science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines,
according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development. Space research is a dynamic, multidisciplinary area, and
having graduates with diverse expertise—from robotics to physics and
semiconductors —is crucial, given the vast applications this sector
covers.

Beyond its ability to boost the UK’s economic and technological power,
the space industry also plays a crucial, societal role. “Satellite
internet connections enable people in rural or isolated regions to
access online education, telemedicine, and employment opportunities,”
Alston says. “By effectively shrinking the digital divide, satellite
technology ensures that individuals in previously disconnected areas
can join the digital age, fostering economic growth, social
development, and improved quality of life for countless communities.”

Being the world’s first GEO-LEO satellite operator, Eutelsat OneWeb’s
technologies are being used to drive connectivity around the world.

“From connecting the previously unconnected locations like Papa Stour, Scotland, and Lundy Island, Devon to
launching LEO-enabled banking services in South Africa, the company’s LEO services are helping bridge the
digital divide in some of the hardest to reach locations,” Alston explains.


“By effectively shrinking the digital divide, satellite technology
ensures that individuals in previously disconnected areas can join the
digital age, fostering economic growth, social development, and
improved quality of life for countless communities.”

-Gareth Alston, director for government affairs, Eutelsat OneWeb


As companies like Eutelsat Group continue to push boundaries in the
space sector, advancements in quantum computing could act as an
accelerant. In the near term, quantum technologies could assist space
R&D efforts such as mission scheduling, materials discovery, and
studies on how space travel affects the space environment. It could
also crunch vast datasets simultaneously to evaluate and forecast
multiple scenarios, such as analyzing data from telescopes or the
properties of black holes.

The UK is well-positioned to convert such possibilities into reality.
It is home to a thriving quantum industry with companies working
across the spectrum of technologies. It has the most quantum startups
in Europe and recorded
US$
979 million

of investment from 2001 to 2021, placing second behind the U.S.

The UK government has bolstered the space and quantum industries with
strong financial support. It pledged £1.84 billion in 2022 to fund
space programs and initiatives, such as the UK-built Rosalind Franklin
Mars Rover, scheduled to launch in 2028. A collaborative initiative
led by the
European
Space Agency
, the UK has played an integral role beyond funding the project to
search for life on Mars. According to a November 2023
report
by the BBC, a scientific instrument built in Wales will be fitted to
the rover to identify the most promising rocks to drill and test for
evidence of ancient biology.

Various government departments also offer backing to companies looking
to innovate in the UK. For example, UK Research and Innovation
facilitates fellowships, grants, and loans for companies engaged in
space science and quantum technologies. In addition, the Department
for Business and Trade’s sector specialists and investment experts are
tasked with helping investors seamlessly expand their businesses in
the UK—they even offer support after landing.

The
National
Quantum Technologies Programme
, a £1 billion partnership between government, academia, and
industry, was established in 2014 to nurture and commercialize quantum
technologies. The initiative has four hubs based in universities
across the UK, specializing in different areas, including
communications, sensors and timing, enhanced imaging, and computing.
So far, it has funded over 470 PhDs, attracted 120 industrial
partners, and supported over 50 quantum startups.

In 2023, an additional £2.5 billion was allocated to support quantum
technologies for the next decade as part of the National Quantum
Strategy. Under the strategy, the government plans to create a network
of research hubs, nurture accelerator programs to spur development and
commercialization, and drive investment toward talent and training
schemes.

Government support in the UK is helping the space and quantum
industries thrive. At the same time, a well-developed startup
ecosystem enables investors to contribute to scientific advances and
breakthroughs. Such innovations could reverberate across other
industries, given that breakthroughs in both sectors have historically
led to progress in others.

With a strong scientific community, a track record of collaboration,
and a globally renowned manufacturing base added into the mix, the
UK’s burgeoning space and quantum industries have a solid foundation
in place to ensure its continued success.

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