UK in space

Looking at the British space programme results in quiet satisfaction that this was one area where civil servants did not choose to hose taxpayers' money. They seemed to have learnt their lesson after Concorde, leaving such red ink to the Ministry of Defence. The government's space programme, subordinated to the European Space Agency (ESA), is showcased by the British National Space Centre.

With such a small programme, the scientific community has specialised in small satellites, developing comparative advantage in a particular area. The aim of Micro Satellite Applications in Collaboration (MOSAIC) was developed between 2000 and 2005 with new micro satellites lauched into orbit.

The UK is pioneering the development of these new technologies and techniques, which aim to show that a simple, economically-built spacecraft can achieve the same high-level results as traditional satellites.

Using small satellites, scientists can build and launch new satellites faster and much more cheaply. It could have a huge impact on the future of space missions and significantly reduce the cost of using satellite technology on Earth. It's therefore vital for our economy that we maintain our momentum and remain one of the world's leading manufacturers of this technology.

The MOSIAC programme resulted in two missions to develop this technology: TOPSAT (2005) and the Disaster Monitoring Constellation.

Costing just £14 million TopSat is many times cheaper than traditional satellite missions. Experts believe that with TopSat, we are looking at the future of satellite technology - a more cost-effective future, with better results.

It aims to show that a simple, economically-built spacecraft can achieve the same high-level results as traditional satellites. The TopSat platform will form the basis for future projects such as SSTL's involvement in RapidEye, a constellation of small satellites for relatively high-resolution optical observations.

The secret of keeping the cost down is the design of the craft itself. To ensure it stays as compact as possible, Top Sat has no extendable solar panels and very few moving parts anywhere on board.

Yet, when one looks at the depth of government involvement, one finds that Rapideye is a German company, that the satellites will be built by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) and that the main contractor is a Canadian government agency. The links between the government subsidised outposts in Europe and the New Space movement are provided by Elon Musk's financial interest in SSTL.

Therefore, the British National Space Centre trumpets the innovation of a subsidised private space company and maintains an understated profile in the global world of the space movement.

Recent Posts

EU: The Counter-Liberal Proposals

The European Union has undertaken steps to ban bomb-making websites. The disturbing manner in which this is proposed leads to EU officials making positive parallels with China.

Placing instructions on how to make a bomb on the internet will become a criminal offence across Europe under plans outlined by Brussels yesterday...

Internet service providers (ISPs) would face charges if they failed to block websites containing bomb-making instructions generated anywhere in the world, EU officials said.....

EU officials denied that it would be impossible to track down websites based in remote places, insisting that the local provider based in the EU could be held to account. One said: “You always need a provider here that gives you access to websites. They can decide technically which websites to allow. Otherwise how would China block internet sites? There are no technological obstacles, only legal ones.”

For those who decry the European Union's authoritarian tendencies, the willingness of EU officials to cite the totalitarian state as an example of positive legality is not a welcome development. They hope to criminalise activities through prosecution of the internet service providers. Since it is almost impossible to police the internet, this allows the EU and Member states an additional rule to harass or arrest any individual.

The BBC has stated that the counter-terrorist proposals will not be curbed by insignificant principles such as freedom of expression. One can begin to trace the transformation of the European Charter of Human Rights from unsoiled idealism to an eventual text that is referred to as a totem and breached in the action. All written constitutional changes degenerate under the state.

Brown's Bubble

We may not have heard of misery indices for many years, yet they could roar back to media attention in the United Kingdom. Gordon Brown will need to examine two trends if he wishes to win the next election: the cost of living and the price of housing. This is coming to the boil, as the debt laden economy merges with higher inflation. Individuals and companies with higher debt, taken up over years of low interest rates, have raced the bubble. Now that bubble may be about to burst.

The figures came as another report suggested that four interest rate rises in the past 12 months are starting to hit consumers' pockets.

The Nationwide Building Society said yesterday that consumer confidence fell for the first time in six months during June and that consumers were more gloomy about the economic outlook than they were a year ago.

A series of interest rate rises, coupled with higher taxes, have forced up people's household bills and dented their disposable income. Leading high street retailers have complained that they are starting to suffer.

Fionnuala Earley, Nationwide's chief economist, said: "The fall in confidence in June reflects some weakening sentiment about the economy and jobs, both now and in the future.

For Brown, the danger is that an economic downturn will be linked to his decade at the Treasury. Then, the continuities with Blair will become apparent: a political model based upon continued economic growth that has to adapt to recession and slow or declining tax revenues. The usual responses of denial and spin will prove too distant from the experiences of householders. Yet, recession does not invariably mean unpopularity, even if the bubble was prolonged by Brown's policies. This will only become a racing certainty if lower living standards are linked to higher taxes.

Glasgow and London: Front Lines not Fault Lines

The current terrorist attacks, timed to coincide with the change of leadership, could have proved a triumph for Al-Qaeda. Instead, they have proved a gift for Mr. Brown, though one that he would have preferred not to receive. For whilst he may bask in the fortune of an attack averted, this will focus minds on the current resources devoted to preventing terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom.

Richard M Bennett in the Asian Times writes about the potential inadequacies of the counter-terrorist forces and the cultural handicaps faced by western democracies. The loss of experienced personnel in MI5, the underfunding of the security services and their inability to countenance the Islamist threat after the Cold War leaves an onlooker sceptical of their ability to move far enough, fast enough.

To conduct counter-terrorism and counterespionage operations to a high level would require a minimum of 5,000 field officers and a Security Service of no fewer than 12,000 people in total. That is four times the projected total strength for 2010.

Even if you added in the strength of the Metropolitan Police SO15 (Specialist Operations) Counter-Terrorism Command and the combined SO12 Special Branch and SO13 Anti-Terrorist Unit, you would still fail by a long way to make up the required numbers.

Simply put, both the International Terrorism (G) Branch and the Domestic Terrorism (T) Branch of the Security Service are being asked to do a vitally important job with a mere fraction of the resources, both personnel and financial, necessary to carry out fully the duties required of them. This sad state of affairs could easily apply to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and to most other security services within the developed world as well.

What is clear as Stephen Schwarz argues is that they wishes to replicate the Baghdad bombings in the United Kingdom, bringing death and destruction to their enemy. The need to time their attacks led to failure, since the unit charged with this task may not have been fully prepared. The United Kingdom is now on the front line with a number of Muslim communities that can harbour radicalised Islamists. The number has grown and their ambition is greater than ever. One must ask why they wish to make an example of Britain rather than the United States. The answer is because they can and, until the government is able to render such actions