ITN Business’ Senior Producer Sarah Collins shares her experiences at this year’s UK Space Conference in Belfast, and how her eyes have been opened to the thrilling realm of space innovation and the passion and collaboration that’s driving the industry.

Six months ago, the space sector meant little more to me than what I had seen on the news, my limited knowledge of satellite communications, astronaut Tim Peake and the 1995 Tom Hanks film ‘Apollo 13’.

My role as a Senior Producer at ITN Business means we produce sector-focused programming throughout the year, and whilst we are the storytellers, and not the leading experts within our key sectors, you do need to have a certain level of knowledge to do what we do.

What I did know, was that the space sector was a thriving industry — and that the UK was hoping to secure its first satellite mission launch, although I was sorry to see the failure of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne, at the start of the year.

It wasn’t long after that, we began the production of our programme ‘Space: Advancing the Future,’ hosted by space scientist and presenter Maggie Aderin-Pocock.

Roll on six months, and the launch of the programme took place at the UK Space Conference at the ICC in Belfast, their first in-person conference since 2019.

UK Space Conference 2023

The atmosphere was electric and everyone was catered for and well looked after, but what struck me the most was how passionate everyone I spoke to throughout the day was about what they do and the industry as a whole.

I quickly understood what a tight-knit and well-connected industry it was, and clearly one the next generation want to be a part of, judging by the number of people who told me they had had conversations with graduates eager to understand the opportunities available to them.

UK Space Conference 2023
The UK Space Conference 2023 held at the ICC in Belfast on November 21-23.

The conference aims to ‘provide a platform for the space sector to exchange ideas, plans and partnerships that encourage development and success in the emerging space age’ and from what I saw, it didn’t disappoint.

Collaboration was a key word repeated throughout the day and the importance of this became clear throughout the many talks and sessions laid on. None more so than a discussion on the technology landscape and the future involving quantum technology, semi-conductors, telecommunications and AI. The success of each of which will be down to collaboration.

The UK Space Agency were our editorial partner and also the lead sponsor for the event, and their Director of Launch, Matt Archer, summed it up well: “Space is a team sport – you can see the warmth in how everyone greets each other… [Everyone] recognises that the efforts they are making might be really hard, but they are valuable — to parts of the supply chain, to a particular product, or equally, to future missions.”

As someone who currently plays a part in the planning and development of ITN Business, it was fascinating to hear about the emerging technology landscape and how storytelling is key to changing public perceptions.

Space terminology is now firmly embedded within my language, as well as the sheer level of importance the space sector holds for our future.

If you want to learn more about the exciting advancements in this sector, have a watch of ITN Business’ new programme, ‘Space: Advancing the Futurehere.