Space: It’s open for business.

Posted by Kate Murray on 3 March 2015

Think Space. You thought of rockets launching amidst explosions and astronauts floating about in zero gravity right? Now, scrap that and let’s start again, because the Space industry is so much more than that and has a lot to offer to students and graduates.


Room to grow

According to the UK government’s Space Growth Action plan (2013 – 2030), the UK Space industry will grow to have a £19 billion turnover by 2020. Year on year, the industry grows by 9% and it is estimated that up to 100,000 skilled jobs will be developed by 2030. It’s hoped that by 2030 the UK will hold 10% of the global space economy.

This sounds promising, but what does the industry look like and what type of career paths might be available to graduates to be?

Space calling Earth: applications of Space technology on Earth

Traditionally, the industry is split in two main sector categories: upstream and downstream. The upstream sector is about the building and launching of satellites and sensors to space whereas the downstream sector is all about the applications and services using the data generated by the upstream activities. The growth of the industry and an increase in the application of space technology to everyday life (e.g. knowing when your next over ground train is going to arrive) means that there has been an ever-growing number of businesses (global and local, small and large) that are now catering for these needs.

Again, in the Space Growth Action plan, it’s reported that some of the fastest growing markets are:

Security & Safety

  • disaster & emergency response
  • secure satellite communications (e.g. miliatry; remote locations)
  • maritime (e.g. pollution monitoring; illegal fishing)
  • geospatial services
  • space weather

Game changing services

  • low-cost access to space
  • space planes & tourism

Climate & environmental services

  • agriculture and food security (e.g. crop monitoring)
  • weather forecasting
  • environmental services (e.g. monitoring deforestation; monitoring climate change)

Public Sector

  • transport management
  • smart cities (using data to change the way cities operate, can affect decisions on urban planning)
  • energy infrastructure


  • satellite broadband (for remote areas; broadband to ships and aircraft)
  • location based services (gaming)


Mapping forest structure from space 

Mapping forest structure from space: taken from European Space Agency


With the growth of downstream services, which are more user focused, there are sub-sectors such as a Support Services. In this sub-sector you can find roles involving: data interpretation; sensor calibration; development of products using software and algorithms, data interpretation and visualisation. Finally, some more specialist sectors include space insurance; space journalism and space law.

Getting a job in the Space industry

I recently visited the 2nd Space Industry Careers Fair where I’ve seen presentations from 11 industry leaders. Some of the skills they mentioned and are looking for in a recent graduate include:

  • sales skills
  • bid writing
  • data analytics/science
  • problem solving
  • innovation
  • collaborative spirit
  • flexibility
  • Mathematical/logical skills
  • software skills (Java, C++, IDL (Interactive Data Language))

Where to look

Sector information

UKSpace -



UK Space Agency -

Catapult -

G-Step -



SpaceJobs -

SpaceCareers -

Space Job Centre -

European Space Agency, Graduate Trainee programme -


Contributed by Melanie Christou, Internships Coordinator for Science at Queen Mary University of London.

Topics: STEM, career choice

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