First pay data for the UK space sector

Posted on 5 October, 2021 by Advance 

The first report on pay in the UK space sector has been published by the Space Skills Alliance and the Space Growth Partnership's Space Skills Advisory Panel.

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Coinciding with the 2021 UK Space Conference last week and the announcement of a partnership agreement between ADS and UKspace towards supporting the British space sector, the report can be accessed via

The survey of more than 1,500 people across industry, academia, government, military, and non-profit organisations benchmarks, for the first time, the salaries of people working in the UK space sector.

Key findings:

These are the first statistics on pay in the UK space sector. They are drawn from the findings of the 2020 Space Census.

The mean space sector salary is £49k.

Smaller organisations pay less (£44k) than larger ones (£50k).

The private sector pays more than the public sector.

Those in London and the South of England earn £10k more than those in the rest of the UK.

Salaries increase by £9k for every five years of age up until the age of 50, rising from £27k for junior roles to £47k for mid-level roles and £66k for senior ones.

Upstream jobs pay slightly more than downstream ones. Ground segment manufacturing and operations offer the highest pay at all levels of seniority.

Those in management and sales earn £10k – £20k more on average than those in technical roles.

Electronic engineers and computer scientists earn more than physicists and aerospace engineers, reflecting skills shortages identified in previous research.

Women consistently earn less than men, a gap that widens with age and seniority from £1k in junior roles to £9k in senior ones. There is no evidence of an ethnicity-related pay gap.

Space is competitive with other engineering sectors but not with the tech sector.

Pay is not a reason why people join the space sector, but those looking to change jobs are paid £3k less on average than their peers who are happy staying put.

Kathie Bowden, Skills Lead at the UK Space Agency and Skills Champion on the Space Skills Advisory Panel, said: “The UK space sector is a success story with ambitious plans for further growth. From missions to Mars, to understanding climate change or working towards the first satellite launches from UK soil in 2022, all of our great work relies on the right mix of people and skills. But, as this report shows, there’s more work to be done. We need to invest in people to attract and retain the brightest and best irrespective of gender or background, and UK space sector salaries must be fair and competitive with other high-tech industries.”

Craig Brown, Diversity & Inclusion Champion for the Space Skills Advisory Panel, said: “As we work to improve the inclusivity of the space sector, collecting and benchmarking salary data will provide evidence of unfair pay-gaps, as well as help us retain our skilled workforce. These latest findings show that we need to make sure that women are not left behind as they move through their careers.”

Joseph Dudley, Director of the Space Skills Alliance, said: “This is the first dataset of its kind for the UK space sector, and the findings of our latest report indicate how important it is to continue monitoring pay as the sector continues to grow and mature. Salaries data is an important indicator of skills shortages, and competitive pay will only become more important as the sector grows and continues to compete with other STEM sectors also facing shortages.”

The findings will inform national policy and sector strategy, feeding directly into the Space Sector Council and the UK Space Agency.

The Census was carried out between October and December 2020, and was funded by the University of Leicester. The latest report on pay in the space sector was funded by the UK Space Agency and Satellite Applications Catapult.

Further reports will be released in coming months focusing on other aspects of the Census results.

ADS and UKspace partnership

Last week ADS and UKspace agreed arrangements on how the two organisations will work together to support the UK’s flourishing space industry.

Under the memorandum of understanding signed by the two organisations, each will harness their respective strengths to support their members across the UK space sector.

ADS will bring cross-sector leadership, leveraging Aerospace, Defence and Security sector expertise to support the Space sector, as well as strong relationships in the devolved nations and event management capabilities.

UKspace will bring its long-standing relationships with Government and international space agencies such as ESA plus its deep knowledge and experience of all thematic areas across the space sector such as satellite communications, climate monitoring from space, satellite navigation, space science, launch, and security & defence. UKspace will also bring its skills to support member companies in cross-cutting areas such as space regulation and satellite financing.

ADS Chief Executive Kevin Craven said: “The space industry is a dynamic and innovative part of the UK economy, with exciting potential for continued future development. Reaching agreement with UKspace on our partnership arrangements is an important milestone for our two associations. We are looking forward to jointly supporting our members in the sector to grow the UK market share in this growing industry in the important years ahead.”

UKspace Chair Nick Shave said: “In the context of the National Space Strategy launched yesterday, the UK space sector is gearing up to realise the ambition set out in the strategy and capitalise on what is a fast growing global space market projected to be worth £500Bn by 2030. UKspace is pleased to have reached agreement with ADS to work in collaboration to support our member companies across the country to grow their businesses during this exciting new chapter in the UK becoming a modern space power.”