The UK Establishes a New Space Command and Names its First Commander


An article published on November 19, 2020 in the UK Defence Journal highlighted the establishment of a new UK Space Command

On 18 November 2020, the UK announced its proposal to establish a new military command dedicated to space, similar to the recent moves taken by allied countries such as France and the US. The proposal of a new Royal Air Force (RAF) space command was part of an announcement by the UK Government of the largest defence budget since the Cold War of £16.5 billion over the next four years.

Boris Johnson announced “a new RAF space command launching British satellites and our first rocket from Scotland in 2022”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

“The security and intelligence agencies will continue to protect us around the clock from terrorism and new and evolving threats. We will invest another £1.5 billion in military research and development, designed to master the new technologies of warfare. We will establish a new centre dedicated to artificial intelligence, and a new RAF space command, launching British satellites and our first rocket from Scotland in 2022. 

“I can announce that we have established a National Cyber Force, combining our intelligence agencies and service personnel, which is already operating in cyberspace against terrorism, organised crime and hostile state activity. And the RAF will receive a new fighter system, harnessing artificial intelligence and drone technology to defeat any adversary in air-to-air combat.”

A UK Government spokesman said:

“Spaceports offer an exciting route to enhance the future prosperity of the UK and we welcome the progress being made by the UK Space Agency. Spaceports will provide opportunity for a range of customers, especially in the context of improving global communications and data sharing.”

An earlier article in the same journal highlighted that the establishment of a Shetland spaceport would boost significantly UK space launch capabilities.

Shetland Space Centre anticipates that by 2024, the spaceport site could support a total of 605 jobs in Scotland including 140 locally and 210 across the wider Shetland region. A further 150 jobs will also be created through wider manufacturing and support services.

“Following a thorough process of due diligence, the UK Space Agency has confirmed that Lockheed Martin’s plans to move its UK Pathfinder Launch to the Shetland site at Lamba Ness on Unst would continue to deliver long-term value and help establish a sustainable, commercial launch market as part of the UK’s spaceflight programme – LaunchUK.”

Lockheed Martin say it is in discussions with a preferred partner to provide launch services for its UK Pathfinder Launch, which would take place from Shetland Space Centre.

UK Government Amanda Solloway, Science Minister, said:

“We want the UK to be the best place in Europe to launch satellites, attracting innovative businesses from all over the world and creating hundreds of high-skilled jobs. The potential to have multiple spaceports in Scotland demonstrates the scale of our ambition, and I want to support industry by pressing ahead with our plans during this challenging time. This government is committed to backing our growing space sector, developing a comprehensive space strategy and supporting transformative technologies that will benefit people and businesses across the country.”

UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said:

“The UK Government is committed to cementing the UK’s position as a global leader in the space sector. The creation of the Shetland Space Centre is incredibly exciting news and a real boost for the local economy. Our investment in Scottish spaceports is creating hundreds of secure and skilled jobs for people in Scotland. The Shetland Space Centre a huge step forward for our ambitious UK Spaceflight programme.”

Just as an airport can handle a range of different airlines and aircraft, ‘Space Hub Sutherland’ has been designed to cater for the needs of multiple launch providers.

“This ensures it will be able to continue to compete for a wide range of exciting vertical launch opportunities.”

The UK Space Agency say it will also continue to fully support Space Hub Sutherland through grant funding to Highlands and Islands Enterprise to develop the spaceport infrastructure and to UK-based launch partner, Orbex, to prepare its innovative Prime rocket to launch from the site in 2022.

And earlier this month, the new commander of the UK Space Force was announced. Air Commodore Paul Godfrey, to become Air Vice-Marshal Godfrey in his new role has a wide range of experience in the evolving capabilities of UK fifth generation warfare as well as significant hands one experience working in Scotland as the base commander at RAF Lossiemouth.

An RAF announcement of the appointment highlighted that “Space Command will be a Joint Command, staffed from all three Services of the Armed Forces, the Civil Service and key members of the commercial sector at RAF High Wycombe.

“Based at RAF High Wycombe, Space Command will be a Joint Command, staffed from all three Services of the Armed Forces, the Civil Service and key members of the commercial sector. It brings together three functions under a single 2-Star military commander: space operations, space workforce generation and space capability.

“Strategic Command leads on developing joint enabling capabilities across the land, sea, air, cyber and space domains. In the space domain these include Satellite Communications, Position, Navigation and Timing as well as Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance.

“As Defence’s integrator Strategic Command works closely with the Space Directorate in Head Office and Space Command in the RAF to ensure they can collectively deliver the capabilities Defence needs to operate and fight in the Information Age.

General Sir Patrick Sanders, Commander of Strategic Command said: “The benefits we derive from Space are vital to our economy, our way of life and to our national security.  In particular we rely on space for the military command and control systems, cyber capabilities, communications, and surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities that Strategic Command provides with our partners to defend the UK and our allies. I look forward to Strategic Command, working very closely with the new Space Command to deliver the integration of these capabilities to our Armed Forces as they operate in the air, on the land, at sea and in cyberspace.”

According to Air Vice-Marshal Harv Smyth, Director, Space : “Space, and our assured access to it, is fundamental to military operations.

“Loss of, or disruption to, the Space Domain, will impact our ability to undertake the majority of Defence Tasks, and has the potential for significant effect on civilian, commercial and economic activity.

“The threat from adversaries in this rapidly maturing domain is real and it is here now.

“If we fail to understand how to operate successfully in the Space Domain through integrated operations, we lose our battle-winning edge.

“The establishment of a UK Space Command for Defence is a crucial step in our development, and will underpin our ability to understand and operate in Space.”

The announcement then added the following: “Direction from the National Space Council will flow through the Space Directorate in MOD Head Office to Space Command and other relevant elements of Defence. It is envisaged that Space Command will interact with the UK Space Agency, as required, to deliver joint national space capability.”

For some of our earlier interviews with Air Vice-Marshal Godfrey, see the following: