Invisible infrastructure. Engineering students are taught to take a pride in the achievements of their profession, often cited is the major contribution to the increase of life expectancy for all social groups from the Victorian’s ambitious programme of water and sewerage works.
Sewers however are not newsworthy and rarely attract attention unless they stop working whether caused by the ‘fatbergs’ of today or the ‘Great Stink’ of 1858 which led Parliament to task the civil engineer Joseph Bazalgette with solving that problem.
Most of the production of the space industry could also be called invisible infrastructure, satellites enable communications, navigation, precise timing as well as the more familiar television and Google Earth type services. Satellite systems are one of the major tools to further the understanding and prediction of the effects of climate change and weather patterns. Today the UK and France are working together on the Microcarb satellite to measure global CO2 emissions.
The Space Industry in the UK is now more than 50 years old and the progress of industrial and scientific development is glimpsed through the media in the activities of Tim Peake on the International Space Station, but the industrial back-bone in the UK is led by the two major European space companies Airbus (with its subsidiary Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd) and Thales Alenia Space.
Thales Alenia Space is currently deploying a 66 satellite constellation, each about the size of a family car. Launched 10 at a time on Elon Musk’s SpaceX rockets these satellites will provide the network for the next generation of global mobile communications operated by US company Iridium, who can connect you anywhere across the globe.
So what does the UK hold for the European business enterprises that challenge globally and provide many highly skilled jobs with productivity at multiples of the national average?
The European Space Agency (known as ESA) is where the UK and many other European nations invest their civil spending; ESA is constituted under a distinct treaty between its 22 member states and 7 cooperating states including Canada, and the first Director General was British. ESA programmes differ from the EU, most obviously in that ESA operates…