So what happened at the Grand Launch ? Well mostly, lots of speechifying and photo-opps with schoolkids and UK astronaut Tim Peak. We got about twenty minutes of Mandelson before he slipped out the back. Not bad for such a busy chap, and what with Byers-gate and all that. I probably got more out of gossiping with folk over coffee and biccies than from the speeches. The questions were also helpful, apart from the gharssly planted schoolkid question. You can read some background in my earlier post, and the official BNSC statement, but here are my informal bullet points :
- The Government agrees with “the great majority” of the IG Team’s recommendations, but we ain’t getting promised that £550M just yet. That will be decided “project by project”
- Theres £40M now to create the ISIC at Harwell. Apparently this is £12M from BIS and £28M from an alliance of RDAs led by SEEDA. In the corridor, STFC chaps assured me that none of this was from the STFC budget.
- The beast is called UK Space Agency. Somebody asked if we pronounce it uch-ser but Drayson reckoned UK Space Agency was short enough.
- We got an exciting new logo. Actually I hated it. Looks like something somebody invented for a fictional fascist party in a cheap TV drama. Modern and thrusting and all that. But I guess its memorable.
- UKSA officially starts on April 1st. David Williams from BNSC is interim Director, but there will now be a recruitment process jolly soon.
- Meanwhile the office is in Polaris House, Swindon. Some STFC staff have moved several feet already. Final HQ not officially decided, but I don’t think the ATC will be putting in a bid, as it is not in a County Beginning with O.
- The lunchtime gossip was that the recruitment of the Director is crucial. We may be looking at re-arranging deck-chairs, but the opportunity is there for a strong leader to force real change.
- Sources tell me that the ISIC plans are ready to roll and it could be “built in a year”. Other sources tell me that actually folks are looking at buying something currently under-used on Harwell campus…
- Andy Green (Logica, IGT leader) did a heavy plug for the hub-and-spokes thing, so maybe there is real opportunity for investment other than in Harwell. If there is ever any more real extra money.
- Old timers reckoned this whole thing was hovering somewhere in between the classic government announcement-about-nothing, and a real major investment. There was a feeling that there is a real intention to be serious about the growth of the space sector, but intentions are cheap… Anyway, we should engage rather than sniff.
- Drayson said there would be a “single budget” but that the science budget would be separate and ring-fenced. But really there are three separate things related to space science – exploitation money, project build money, and technology R&D money. The most optimistic thing for the academic sector is that re-structuring may let us get at part three.
- One knowledgeable source suggested to me that UKSA may hold the space science project budget, but we will still apply to STFC. Hmmm.
* PLS = Post Launch Summary. Space Junkies Joke.