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UK Space Agency fully established and going for growth

1 Apr 2011


David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science. Credit: UK Space Agency

The UK Space Agency becomes an executive agency of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills today.


This will see the Agency taking over responsibility for the majority of the UK’s commitment to space exploration and science. Efforts will be targeted at areas that have the greatest potential for delivering economic benefits, scientific excellence and national security.

Priority areas include developing scientific advancements in space technologies, gaining a better understanding of our planet through Earth observation spacecraft, and nurturing our next generation of space scientists and researchers.

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said:

The UK space industry is worth an estimated £7.5 billion and is an important driver for economic growth. This is why we’ve earmarked £10 million in the Budget to start a national space technology programme and committed to reducing the regulatory burden on industry.

“The establishment of the UK Space Agency will provide a focal point for this work and bring together our very best talent. This will help us concentrate efforts on advancements in space science and satellite technology, and ultimately give us a better understanding of our own planet.”

UK Space Agency Chief Executive David Williams said:

“Today represents 12 months of hard work from Agency staff and from colleagues at the Science and Technology Facilities Council, Technology Strategy Board, Natural Environment Research Council and other partners in industry and across Whitehall.

“Now established, we need to use the upcoming months to set the direction of travel for the UK space sector. That means concentrating on encouraging growth and engaging with industry, academia and other Government departments to make sure we’re developing in the right way.”

As part of the Budget and Growth Review, Government has:

  • Earmarked £10m to start a national space technology programme with industry aimed at promoting economic growth and self sustainability, which will be channelled through the UK Space Agency.
  • Committed to reforming the Outer Space Act – this will introduce an upper limit on the third party liability of UK satellite operators, making the industry more internationally competitive.
  • Committed to working with the international regulatory authorities to enable space tourism operations in the UK and define regulations for novel space vehicles that offer low cost access to space.

The UK Space Agency will continue to build links between industry and the research community. It will work with other UK organisations such as the Technology Strategy Board, the Research Councils, the International Space Innovation Centre and the Met Office, and overseas agencies including the European Space Agency and NASA.

The principal driver of the UK Space Agency is economic growth through both export and innovation, and through supporting science as an enabler for growth. These themes are being highlighted as part of the organisation’s strategy for 2011-2015, which is published for consultation today.

Notes to editors

  • The UK Space Agency is at the heart of UK efforts to explore and benefit from space. It is responsible for all strategic decisions on the UK civil space programme and provides a clear, single voice for UK space ambitions.
  • The UK's thriving space sector contributes £7.5bn a year to the UK economy, directly employs 24,900 and supports a further 60,000 jobs across a variety of industries.
  • More information about the UK Space Agency, current programmes and the strategy for 2011-15 can be found at www.bis.gov.uk/ukspaceagency.
  • The UK Space Agency is also building partnerships around the world. In the past year, international collaboration agreements have been signed with Russia and the United States. Only a few weeks ago, David Willetts opened the UK-Russia Year of Space 2011 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s seminal space flight, one of the iconic moments of the 20th century.

The UK Space Agency

The UK Space Agency is at the heart of UK efforts to explore and benefit from space.

The UK's thriving space sector contributes £9.1 billion a year to the UK economy and directly employs 28,900 with an average growth rate of almost 7.5%. (The Size and Health of the UK Space Sector 2010/11, preliminary survey results.)

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