Departure of Dominic Cummings loses UK Space Industry its biggest supporter in Downing Street

by | Nov 16, 2020 | Satellites, Seradata News, Space politics

Dominic Cummings, the principal adviser to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and the driving force for Brexit and the purchase of the OneWeb satellite constellation, left Number 10 Downing Street in November after his resignation was forced by what had been the UK government equivalent of a “palace intrigue”.  Cummings downfall had been preceded by the departure of his ally, Lee Cain who was No 10’s Communications Director. Space fan Cummings, who was seen as both an intellectual and a Machiavellian, wanted to challenge the orthodox views prevalent in politics and the civil service, but one who made many enemies as he did so. And it was this that ultimately led to his demise.

Dominic Cummings tries to explain his “eye test via driving” during May 2020. Courtesy: BBC via David Todd

The UK space industry itself will have mixed feelings about Cummings’ departure. It was not in favour of Brexit  – the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU) –  which Cummings masterminded, and yet it appreciated him being a proponent of the US space industry – one who with direct access to the UK Prime Minister. It was Cummings who convinced the UK government to invest in the nearly defunct OneWeb satellite constellation, with an eye its possible use as a carrier for a GPS-style navigation payload as a replacement the EU Galileo system which the UK would be excised from after Brexit.  However, while the OneWeb decision caused admiration for its audacity, it also resulted in criticism over the idea’s lack of technical practicality, and over the fact that few government departments were consulted over the plan. In effect, they had been short-circuited from the decision making – a Cummings’ modus operandi.

Cummings, who admits to being inspired by the former maverick US air force officer and strategist, John Boyd, whose energy-manoeuvrability theory directly resulted in the hugely successful F-16 fighter jet, and in being influenced by NASA’s successful Apollo human lunar landing plan created by George Mueller, was a noted intellectual who wanted to make root and branch changes within the government and civil service. This was planned with the understandable intention to reduce government bureaucracy and red tape, and to introduce new thinking. And yet, in wanting to challenge the orthodoxy Cummings became a hated figure as he ruthlessly removed any opponent – ranging from junior advisers to senior members of the cabinet and civil service – standing in his way, while others, including senior Conservative ministers and MPs were reportedly frozen out of government decision making.

Likewise, Cummings’ “the end justifies the means” strategy resulted Prime Minister Boris Johnson choosing to disregard constitutional procedure and national law via his government’s attempt to prorogue (suspend) parliament (it was later ruled illegal by the UK’s Supreme Court) and to controversially prepare to intentionally break international law by breaking an international agreement with the EU.

In the end, Cummings’ “Cabal” was defeated by another equally ruthless faction within No 10 which was apparently (and surprisingly) led by the Prime Minister’s fiancée Carrie Symonds, with the help of the newly appointed spokesperson for the Prime Minister, Allegra Stratton.

While Cummings has many detractors, nevertheless, it has to be noted that the Johnson-Cummings Brexit strategy, combined with the poor tactics and leadership of the opposition parties, resulted in the EU referendum being settled in favour of Brexit and the Conservatives subsequently winning the General Election with a large majority.

In addition, Cummings is credited with being the man who convinced a “dithering” Prime Minister to accept the need for a lockdown during the Coronavirus epidemic – a move which probably saved thousands of lives, the only regret being that he did not manage to do it sooner.

Actually, their was another rather obvious regret – one for Cummings himself – after he was caught breaking the lockdown’s own rules in a jaunt from London to his second home in Durham during May, and in a secondary car trip to Barnard Castle nearby. His excuse of taking a drive “to test his eyesight” made Cummings an object of national ridicule and resulted in Prime Minister Boris Johnson receiving a lot of flak for not firing him at the time.


About Seradata

Seradata produce the renowned SpaceTrak Launch & Satellite Database. Trusted by 100 of the world’s leading Space organisations, SpaceTrak is a fully queryable database used for market analysis, failure/risk assessment, spectrum analysis and space situational awareness (SSA).

For more information go to

Related Articles

Eutelsat and OneWeb sign US$3.4 billion merger deal

French satellite operator Eutelsat and UK government part-owned OneWeb have signed a merger deal that values the latter at US$3.4 Read more

Aspiring launch provider Relativity Space is selected by OneWeb to provide launches for its Gen 2 satellites

OneWeb signed a "launch services agreement for multiple launches" with upcoming American launch provider Relativity Space on 30 June. According Read more

Astroscale gets funding to demo satellite removal

While the ELSa-D docking test mission is not going to plan in orbit due to thruster issues, its owner/developer Astroscale Read more

Soyuz launch-stymied OneWeb taps ISRO for launches after similar SpaceX multi-launch deal

OneWeb, a UK-based low Earth orbit (LEO) communications satellite constellation operator, has announced that it has contracted with the Indian Read more

OneWeb calls and SpaceX answers with launch contract to complete constellation after Soyuz cancellations

SpaceX has ridden to the rescue of low Earth orbit satellite operator OneWeb after it lost its Soyuz rides for Read more

Analysis: Putin orders Russian tanks to roll into Ukraine…and spaceflight will be affected (Updated/Corrected)

On 21 February, Russia’s President Putin ordered troops and tanks into disputed territories of Donetsk and Luhansk for “peacekeeping”, which Read more

Second OneWeb mission from Kourou launches more satellites to orbit

Arianespace successfully launched a Soyuz 2-ST-B/Fregat M vehicle from the Sinnamary launch site near Kourou in French Guiana at 1809 Read more

Another 36 OneWeb satellites are launched into orbit by a Soyuz 2.1b/Fregat

Russia successfully launched a Soyuz 2.1B/Fregat vehicle from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, near Tyuratam in Kazakhstan, at 1310 GMT on 27 Read more