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UK Space Agency gets to work

The UK Space Agency, set up to look after British involvement in spaceflight, officially opened its doors on Friday.The national space agency, which handles British interests in international space negotiations, is a part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and will be responsible for the majority of the UK's research into space travel and technology.
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Written by Ben Woods, Senior reporter on

The UK Space Agency, set up to look after British involvement in spaceflight, officially opened its doors on Friday.

The national space agency, which handles British interests in international space negotiations, is a part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and will be responsible for the majority of the UK's research into space travel and technology.

It hopes to strengthen links between industry and research communities and will also take over responsibility of some key UK and European space projects, including Galileo.

"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," David Williams, the UK Space Agency chief executive, said in a statement.

The UK Space Agency aims to glean a better understanding of the planet through Earth observation spacecraft, and support of the next generation of space scientists and researchers, it said, adding that space developments can deliver economic, scientific and national security benefits.

According to David Willets, minister for universities and science, the UK space industry is worth an estimated £7.5bn and directly employs nearly 25,000 people. The UK government has already put £10m aside to start a national space technology programme, which it hopes will promote economic growth and self-sustainability in the sector.

The government has also pledged to overhaul the Outer Space Act (PDF), which would put a cap on third-party liability of UK satellite operators, and to work with regulators to enable space tourism in the UK.

"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 agency said in a statement.

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