The UK Space Conference 2015

The plenary sessions opened to an animation by animator and videographer Barry Wilkinson. For more info, see http://www.barry-wilkinson.com/news180715.html.

The UK Space Conference took place this week at the Arena and Convention Centre, Liverpool, and with over 1000 attendees was the biggest event so far in the history of the conference. This year the conference centred around a theme of ‘Space-Enabled Futures’, included the launch of the UK Space Environments Association and the UK Space Life And Biomedical Sciences Association, and came hard on the heels of the publication of the UK Space Agency’s Space Environments and Human Spaceflight Strategy, a first for the UK. It’s gratifying to see the conference doing so well and if the conference is representative of the broader space industry in the UK, then it’s a sign that the industry is doing well too.

I was also pleased to find that the conference was more balanced than in 2013. Since the UK Space Agency took on running the conference it has become increasingly commercial in nature, and this was particularly so in 2013. There has been a strong element of that in this year’s conference too, but thankfully the increased size has allowed it to offer a broader range of parallels, covering a broader range of topics. For my part, I found myself in the Space Environments and Space LABS sessions, which included some engaging looks back at some of the history of human Spaceflight science activities along with the launch of the two respective associations. There were also live link-ups on both days with Tim Peake, presently in quarantine at Baikonur where he is serving as backup crew for the forthcoming Soyuz launch. One of these was chaired by first Briton in space Helen Sharman, which resulted in some interesting discussion between the two.

Human spaceflight had a presence not just in the parallel sessions but throughout the conference, illustrating a major shift in government policy over the past five or so years. It is clear that the government has been dipping its toes into the water, and this year it has decided to dive in with the launch of the UK’s first Space Environments and Human Spaceflight Strategy—a strategy that included specific provision for supporting the development of commercial human spaceflight. I’ll say more on this strategy at a later time but clearly the future of Britain’s space industry, and its involvement in the human exploration and development of space, is looking bright.