What is the government doing about space skills?


Last year we created the Space Skills Landscape Map to understand all of the different organisations and initiatives related to space skills in the UK.

Much of the activity recorded in that map is ultimately directed or funded by government, but government is a vast and many tentacled beast, so we’ve written this article to summarise everything we know that the government is doing to tackle the space skills gap.

We’ve focused on activities conducted by the UK Space Agency, the MOD, and the Satellite Applications Catapult since the National Space Strategy was published in 2021, but we’ve also included other activities where relevant.

Contact info@spaceskills.org with any corrections, additions, and suggestions for improvement.

Declaration of interest

We were funded by UKSA to deliver the 2020 Space Census and the 2023 Space Sector Skills Survey, we are currently in receipt of a grant under the Skills for Space workstream of the UKSA Inspiration Programme, and we also sit on the Space Skills Advisory Panel.

The key players

The two central government departments with primary responsibility for space are the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) and the Ministry of Defence (MOD). Commercial spaceflight also involves the Department for Transport, and the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) is involved on the export side, but we’re not aware of skills activities directly led by either of them. Some qualifications and activities are supported by the Department for Education.

The MOD are responsible for the UK’s military space programme, including UK Space Command which is part of the RAF.

DSIT has its own space directorate, but a lot of activity happens through its agencies and public bodies, which include:

  • UK Space Agency (UKSA) which has overall responsibility for the UK’s civil space programme;
  • UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), which directs research and innovation funding;
  • The Geospatial Commission, which sets geospatial strategy and coordinates public sector geospatial activity;

The Satellite Applications Catapult receives about a third of its funding as a core grant from central government. Roughly, DSIT funds UKRI which funds Innovate UK which funds the Catapult.

The Space Partnership is a collaboration between industry, academia and government to work together to realise the ambitions set out in the National Space Strategy. Space Partnership’s board includes representatives from UKSA, DSIT, DBT, MOD, UKRI, and the Satellite Applications Catapult. Funding for the Space Partnership is from UKSA, who contracted the Catapult to host the team.

The National Space Council first formed as a Cabinet Committee to oversee Government policy on space, and is responsible for ‘coordinating government policy on space and ensuring that the UK is well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the space sector to drive job creation and grow the economy’. 1 It was established in 2020, then scrapped by Liz Truss in 2022, restarted in July 2023, and currently appears dormant. 2

The key strategy documents

The National Space Strategy (NSS)

The National Space Strategy, first published in September 2021, set out the government’s ambitions for the UK in space, bringing together civil and defence policy for the first time. The first of the four pillars of the NSS is ‘unlocking growth’, and a core part of that is ‘nurturing talent: growing our space workforce’.

UK Space Agency Corporate Plan 2022-25

The UKSA Corporate Plan, published in July 2022, sets out the work that the UK Space Agency will deliver between 2022 and 2025. Inspiration is one of the eight delivery priorities, aligned with the National Space Strategy, and includes ‘[improving] access to the skilled people that the sector needs to diversify and grow sustainably’.

The National Space Strategy in Action (NSSIA)

In November 2022, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee inquiry into UK space strategy published a report criticising the NSS as ‘lack[ing] specifics and a clear programme of work’, and recommended that the government ‘publish detailed implementation plans for the National Space Strategy’. 3 The government responded in July 2023 with the, 4 setting out how it is delivering on the ambitions set out in the NSS.

The Defence Space Strategy (DSS)

The Defence Space Strategy was published in February 2022 by the MOD. One of the strategic themes of the DSS is ‘upskill and cohere’ in which the MOD will ‘develop a skilled and sustainable space workforce’ and ‘recruit, train and retain talented individuals’.

Space Industrial Plan (SIP)

The Space Industrial Plan, published in March 2024 by DSIT and the MOD, is a joint civil-defence plan for growing space capabilities in the UK. One of the items on the plan is ‘Building a skilled space workforce’ with actions to:

  • Publish the Space Workforce Action plan (see below)
  • Use the new MOD Space Competency Framework to design a Space Professional Training Pathway for military service personnel (see MOD section below)
  • Completing Phase 1 of the build of the new Space Academy, expected by mid-2025 (see MOD section below)

Space Workforce Action Plan

The first Space Workforce Action Plan (SWAP) is expected to be published in the second half of 2024. 45 It is being written by UKSA, DSIT, and Space Partnership, and is based on the results of the 2023 Space Sector Skills Survey and consultation workshops run in late 2023 and early 2024.

This long-term action plan will focus on resolving the challenges facing the sector, clarifying the roles of government, industry, and academia in tackling these together. It will include skills for using AI and data, as well as developing highly specialised space talents e.g. in spacecraft operations. 6

UK Space Agency (UKSA)

The UK Space Agency is an executive agency of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT). It aims to ‘inspire and lead the UK in space to benefit the planet and its people’.

UKSA’s skills activities are primarily funded and delivered by its Education and Skills team, but some launch-related activities are funded and delivered by the Launch team.

Education and Skills team and the Inspiration Priority

In its 2022 Corporate Plan, UKSA launched a new Inspiration Priority to ‘inspire young people to pursue STEM education’ and to ‘attract talent to the UK space sector’. £40m was originally budgeted for this work, half allocated to the Inspiration Programme and half to Unlocking Space for Business. 7

The Inspiration Programme consists of three main workstreams: Space to Inspire, Space to Learn, and Skills for Space. Unlocking Space for Business is a separate funding stream related to business and entrepreneurial engagement. 89

The National Space Strategy in Action policy paper stated that UKSA planned to invest £15m in education, skills, and outreach by April 2025, including over £4m to ‘enhance access to training for current and potential space sector workers’. Monitoring and evaluation of the Inspiration Programme is budgeted at around £250,000. 10

Space to Inspire

Space to Inspire aims to get young people, parents, teachers, club leaders, and the general public aware of and interested in space. It provides direct funding for two key projects as well as Space for All grants for a range of smaller activities.

Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC)

Space to Inspire will fund the Association for Science and Discovery Centres’ Our World From Space programme, which emphasises the significance of UK space science for Earth’s future. 11 It will be delivered at 22 selected centres, with resources and exhibitions open to schools, teachers, families, and the public.

UKSA previously supported the Destination Space programme, which reached 67,000 children visiting the nine Science and Discovery Centres in the UK in 2021-2022, and 2.5m children and families between 2015-2022. 12

Girlguiding UK and Scouts Association

Space to Inspire is funding Girlguiding UK and Scouts Association to provide resources and events to support children in working towards a range of Space and Astronomy Badges (such as the Astronomy Activity badge). 13

Space for All

Space for All is a grant programme for projects to inspire and engage young people to consider STEM and careers in space. 14 Previously up to £10,000 was available per project and a total of £65,000 was available, but in 2023 this was increased to £500,000 with the intention of offering grants of between £50,000 and £100,000. 15

Space to Learn

Space to Learn focuses on partnership with educational providers to support teachers and engage with students directly. It provides £4.3 million for three educational projects and aims to achieve 10 million hours of interactions with young people by 2025. 1617


Space to Learn uses the UKSA’s long-standing partnership with ESERO-UK to run a wide range of activities designed to use the context of space to enhance the teaching of STEM subjects. 18 Its key programmes include Space Inspirations, which brings Space Ambassadors (space sector volunteers) into the classroom, support for teachers in the form of CPD, conferences, and resources, and competitions, and activities for children including the UK CanSat Competition, Climate Detectives project, and Mission X programme. 19

National Space Academy (NSA)

As part of Space to Learn, the National Space Academy will run a range of masterclasses, non-residential space schools, and space career conferences. 20 NSA aims to provide 1,000 masterclasses and engage with more than 40,000 students between 2023 and 2025. 21 Masterclasses are targeted at schools which meet a number of criteria including a high proportion of students receiving pupil premium or free school meals, schools without a physics teacher, or who have underperformed in Ofsted or equivalent inspections.

Jon Egging Trust (JET)

The Jon Egging Trust runs the Blue Skies initiative to target disadvantaged schools and students with space education and outreach. As part of Space to Learn, JET aims to deliver over 28,000 hours of space-related support to over 3,000 disadvantaged students. 22

Skills for Space

Skills for Space provides support for people trying to get ‘their first jobs in the space sector’ by working to broker access to specialist training, provide internships, and support scholarships.

Many of the components from the Skills for Space strategy come from the business case written for the now-discarded proposal for a National Space Skills Institute (NSSI). 923 The NSSI was intended to promote, provide, and fund training, fund research into future workforce needs, and increase opportunities for those changing careers into the space sector.

In June 2023, the proposed Skills for Space budget for 2023-3025 was £4.6m, with plans to enhance access to training for current and future space sector workers. 1024

Training Programmes Fund

£1.7m has been allocated to a Training Programmes Fund for grants of £250,000-£500,000 to develop and deliver new and innovative training programmes between May 2024 and March 2025. 25 The programmes are intended to address the skills gaps identified in the 2023 Space Sector Skills Survey and support career changers from other sectors.

Space Placements in Industry (SPIN)

The SPIN programme provides employers with £3,000 grants to fund 8-week summer placements for undergraduates. Some employers self fund. It has supported over 500 students (‘SPINterns’) over 10 years, and more than 60% of students have progressed to a space career. 826

The total funding pot for 2022/23 was £150,000 to part fund 73 SPINterns. 27 In 2023/24, the Satellite Applications Catapult was awarded a £650,000 grant to deliver the SPIN programme and increase the number of internships to 150. 28

SPIN students are also funded to attend and present their work at the UK Space Conference or similar events.

Space Universities Network

The Space Universities Network (SUN) supports primarily university lecturers (and some college lecturers) with creating and delivering space curricula. Between 2023 and 2025, UKSA is providing a grant of approximately £100,000 to fund an upgrade of the website and case studies, and a range of other skills-focused projects led by members of SUN. 38


UKSEDS is the national student space society, primarily supporting university students through events and competitions. UKSA has provided a grant of £67,500 to UKSEDS to deliver the National Student Space Conference in 2024 and 2025, and to support a new student microgravity competition. 38

Scholarships and bursaries

UKSA will increase funding to £95,000 for scholarships and bursaries for existing courses, such as the ISU Space Summer Programme and Alpbach Summer School. 30 They aim to fund 10 participants on these courses. 38

Space Training Catalogue and SpaceCRAFT

Space Skills Alliance publishes reports (like this one!) and tools to address the space skills gap. UKSA has provided a grant of £100,000 between 2023 and 2025 to fund the further development of SSA’s Space Training Catalogue, a one-stop-shop for all existing training, and for further development of the SpaceCRAFT competencies framework. 3138

Skills and workforce research

UKSA also funds skills and workforce research, such as the Space Sector Skills Survey, the primary source of evidence to support the government’s understanding of skills gaps and workforce challenges in the space sector. It was first conducted in 2020 (by BMG Research) and most recently in 2023 (by Space Skills Alliance and know.space), at a cost of approximately £60,000. 32

Other Education team activities

Unlocking Space for Business

UKSA funds the Space Accelerator programmes, delivered by Entrepreneurial Spark 33, as well as Unlocking Space for Business, part of which focuses on creating and delivering training around long-term adoption of satellite-derived data, applications, and services across commercial end-users. 8

Funding competitions

UKSA funds a small number of student teams to engage with ESA programmes, such as Fly Your Thesis! and Spin Your Thesis!. Grants are up to £5,000. 34

UKSA funds and coordinates the SatelLife competition, an annual competition for young people to create ideas of how satellites could improve life on Earth and a share of a £50,000 prize. 35

STEM ambassadors

UKSA runs the space element of the STEM ambassadors network. In 2022-23, around 1,000 ambassadors visited schools to talk about space. 9

Providing education and career resources

UKSA provides space-related educational and careers resources on their website. 36

Supporting apprenticeship standards development

UKSA have worked with Industry Trailblazer Groups to establish new apprenticeship standards relevant to the sector including the L4 Space Engineering Technician apprenticeship and L6 Space Systems Engineer degree apprenticeship. 37

Launch team and the Spaceflight Programme

Some UKSA education and skills activities fall outside of the remit of the Education and Skills team, and are funded separately as part of the Launch team’s Spaceflight Programme. It is unclear why. The total programme budget is about £10m.

Rocketry Research, Training and Teaching Hub (R2T2)

£4.9m was announced at UKSC 2023 to fund 30 PhD students through the Rocketry Research, Training and Teaching Hub (R2T2) and STFC. These studentships will focus on developing launch skills, with the aim to train at least 10 rocket engineers per year for the next 10 years.

The funding will be used to create the first three cohorts of 10 PhD students and covers the time period 2023-2028. The funding will cover 100% of cohort 1, 75% of cohort 2, and 50% of cohort 3, with industry expected to meet the shortfall. 383940

Rocketry competitions

In 2022 the UKSA Spaceflight Competition Fund offered up to £100,000 per competition. 41

In December 2023, UKSA announced £3.6m would be committed over 5 years to support new and existing student rocketry competitions. The first call for rocketry competitions was expected to open in around February 2024 29 although we have not seen any updates to this yet.

Space for Everyone

The Spaceflight Programme runs its own range of launch-related educational activities, including the Space for Everyone tour, which took a 72ft rocket model around the UK ‘to captivate and educate the next generation, showcasing the UK's flourishing space industry and the diverse array of career opportunities available’ 42, and the I’m a Space Person careers website. 43

£449,000 was spent on the initial tour, and £250,000 was budgeted for another launch-themed education initiative in 2023/24 2444, however this does not appear to have materialised.

Nanosat Design Competition

The Spaceflight Programme funded the Nanosat Design Competition in 2021-2022 which saw 40 teams of young people aged 16+ compete for the chance to win £600k to design and build a nanosat to help inform solutions to climate change. 45

Logo Lift Off! competition

Logo Lift Off! was a competition in 2022 for primary school children to design a logo to go on the first rockets launched from UK spaceports. More than 10,000 young people entered the competition. 12 The programme was contracted to Hopscotch Consulting and the budget was £50,000 4647, funded by the Spaceflight programme.

Contributions to other initiatives

The programme also contributed to existing initiatives such as the CanSat competition and SPIN. 48

Other UKSA programmes

Funding other organisations

UKSA funds a number of other organisations who themselves conduct skills-related activities. These include the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI) 49 and space clusters around the UK 50.

Funding PhD studentships

UKSA funds a small number of PhD studentships on a semi-regular basis. For example, in 2023 they committed £1m to fund 10 studentships focused on Mars exploration missions, 51 with funding coming from the Science budget.

Satellite Applications Catapult

The Satellite Applications Catapult is one of a network of seven technology and innovation ‘catapults’ for different sectors. It helps organisations make use of, and benefit from, satellite technologies. About a third of its funding comes from a core grant from central government.

Space Placements in Industry (SPIN)

The Catapult hosts and delivers SPIN 52, including the coordination of applications from companies and interns, supporting the interns throughout the project, and organising the annual SPIN showcase (where students present what they have worked on).

See also the entry on SPIN in the UKSA section.

Supporting the sector

The Catapult plays a role in skills both nationally and regionally. A representative of the Catapult Skills Teams sits on the Space Skills Advisory Panel, and the Catapult funds and hosts the Space Partnership. The Catapult supports regional space clusters through the Space Enterprise Community and other activities. Some of this support is focused around creating and developing the skills and workforce of each cluster, though this varies from cluster to cluster.

Workforce foresighting

The Catapult is leading on workforce foresighting for new and emerging technologies, such as in-orbit servicing and manufacturing (IOSM). These workshops are ongoing, and are working to identify and describe industrial challenges, technologies and solutions, and the skills required by the sector. 53

Apprenticeship standards

The Catapult provides support for, and sits on, Apprenticeship Trailblazer Groups, who are responsible for developing occupational standards for apprenticeships, T Levels, and other vocational technical qualifications. They have influenced the content of a range of apprenticeship programmes, including the L4 Space Engineering Technician, L6 Space Systems Engineer, and L7 Systems Engineer. 53

Knowledge exchange

The Catapult supports knowledge exchange between industry and academia, contributes to the development of space-relevant training courses, and has mapped academic capabilities as part of the Space Capabilities Catalogue. 54 They also make facilities available to students and researchers. The Catapult also works with UKRI on the Researchers in Residence (RiR) awards which aim to create new networks and encourage knowledge exchange. 55 The Catapult hosts researchers through the Innovation Launchpad Network+.

Ministry of Defence (MOD)

The Ministry of Defence is responsible for implementing government defence policy and managing the Armed Forces. They are responsible for the UK’s military space programme, including UK Space Command which is part of the RAF.

Training Needs Analysis (TNA)

UK Space Command conducted a Training Needs Analysis (TNA) in 2021-2022. 56 The TNA led to the development of a MOD Space Competency Framework, which will be used to design a Space Professional Training Pathway for military service personnel. 57

It also recommended the development of the intermediate and advanced space ops courses, a new Qualified Space Instructor Course (QSIC), and a redesigned online foundation space operations course. 58

Space Academy

As a result of the TNA, MOD is developing a physical Space Academy to upskill the defence space workforce, with the build expected to be completed by mid-2025. 57 It will build on already established Air and Space Warfare School courses, with the aim to constitute a Centre of Excellence for Space Training. 5659

Foundation-level space training for MOD personnel is already available across the Defence Learning Environment and through the Air and Space Warfare School. 56

Defence Space Training Catalogue

In 2023, UK Space Command released a physical Defence Space Training Catalogue to give personnel across defence an overview of the space training and education available to them.

Space Reservists

In September 2023, the creation of a new cadre of Space Reserves was announced at 607 Squadron, RAF Leeming to enable Space Command to draw from a wider pool of skills.

On 12th December 2023, UK Space Command allocated the UK Space Operations Centre (UKSpOC) a Squadron number as the No 1 Space Operations Squadron, based at RAF High Wycombe. 60 The RAF Fylingdales Operations Squadron was announced as No 2 Space Warning Squadron. 61

Geospatial Commission

The Geospatial Commission commissioned a report in 2022 analysing the demand for geospatial skills. 62 This fed into the UK Geospatial Strategy 2030 63 published in June 2023, which sets out activities to encourage greater use of geospatial technologies, including a number related to skills:

Supporting geospatial training

The Geospatial Commission is supporting the Apprenticeship Trailblazer Group renewing existing geospatial apprenticeships and working with the Royal Geographical Society in establishing a masters level spatial modelling apprenticeship.

It is also working towards publishing best practice in embedding geospatial topics into data science and geography courses.

Funding PhDs

The Geospatial Commission is supporting Centres for Doctoral Training and funding geospatial PhDs in partnership with Ordnance Survey.

Upskilling public sector geographers

The Geospatial Commission is launching a pilot training programme to upskill public sector geographers from underrepresented backgrounds.

Outreach and teacher training

The Geospatial Commission is working with the Ordnance Survey to improve outreach to schools and trainee teachers.

Mapping the geospatial skills landscape

The Geospatial Commission is supporting the work of AGI Scotland to understand the geospatial skills landscape.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)

UKRI is the national funding agency investing in science and research in the UK.

Funding researchers

UKRI funds the majority of early career space-related research through EPSRC, NERC, STFC in the form PhDs, CDTs, industrial CASE studentships, policy internships, summer schools, fellowships, postdoctoral, and more. STFC in particular has recently invested £24.1 million in postgraduate training and fellowships in particle physics, nuclear physics and astronomy, including 220 new PhD studentships. 64 UKRI also works with the Satellite Applications Catapult on the Researchers in Residence (RiR). 55

Skills Factory

STFC has proposed a ‘Skills Factory’ which aims to inspire the next generation to work in STEM and space, by significantly increasing early career opportunities and supporting those returning to the workplace or switching careers. 65 The current proposal is for a pilot scheme which could later be rolled out to other public-sector organisations to address STEM skills shortages. 66

Bodies that advise government

Space Skills Advisory Panel

The Space Skills Advisory Panel (SSAP) is made up of representatives from government, academia (SUN and SPAN), industry (UKspace), and cross-sector bodies with a goal of advising UKSA on and coordinating space skills activity. SSAP was formed in 2020 and is chaired by a representative of UKspace and UKSA acts as its secretariat.

SSAP has supported various initiatives including the Space Workforce Action Plan, the Space Census, R2T2, and the NSSI business case.

Space Partnership

The Space Partnership (previously the National Space Partnership, and before that the Space Growth Partnership). It is funded by UK Space Agency and hosted by the Satellite Applications Catapult, with ‘matched with resource contributions’ from the wider sector.

Space Partnership aims to bring together industry, academia and government stakeholders to work together on priority issues to realise the ambitions set out in the National Space Strategy. Its board includes representatives from UKSA, DSIT, DBT, MOD, UKRI, UKspace, SPAN, SUN, the Satellite Applications Catapult, and the Satellite Finance Network.


UKspace is the space trade association and is non-governmental, but works closely with government. UKspace provides an industry voice into government around issues including skills, primarily through the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Space.

The APPG for Space aims to raise awareness in Parliament of the importance and opportunities of space for the UK. It doesn’t focus on skills, but skills sometimes feature in the themes it meets to discuss. The APPG for Space is coordinated by the UKspace Public Affairs Group. 67


3 May 2024: We originally wrote that Space Partnership was funded and hosted by the Satellite Applications Catapult. This is not correct. Funding for the Space Partnership is from the UK Space Agency, who contracted the Satellite Applications Catapult to host the team.


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