UK space agency ready for take-off

The national agency will coordinate the government's involvement in civilian space efforts, taking over policy and budgets previously held by several departments
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

The government has launched a UK Space Agency dedicated to coordinating the government's involvement in civilian spaceflight, with responsiblity for looking after policy and budgets.

The national space agency, which officially begins work on 1 April, will negotiate on the UK's behalf with international bodies. In addition, it will take over responsibility for some key UK and European space projects, including Galileo, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said in a statement on Tuesday.

The agency was set up to help spur growth in the British space and satellite industry, which employs 68,000 workers and generates £6.5bn a year, according to science and technology minister Lord Drayson.

"The UK Space Agency will give the sector the muscle it needs to fulfil its ambition," said Drayson in the BIS statement. "Britain's space industry has defied the recession."

The target is for the sector grow to £40bn a year and create 100,000 jobs in 20 years, Drayson added. "The new space agency is about making sure that the UK fully exploits its competitive advantage in satellites, robotics and related technologies," he said.

In addtion, BIS on Tuesday gave a commitment to work with industry to set out how space technology can help deliver next-generation broadband services.

The government announced its intention to create a UK space agency in December 2009. It will replace the British National Space Centre, and bring together the work of six government departments, two research councils, the Technology Strategy Board and the Met Office. Together, these bodies previously oversaw the organisation of UK space activities.

In a related announcement on Tuesday, BIS introduced the International Space Innovation Centre (ISIC). The centre will have £40m funding and will be based at Harwell in Oxfordshire. ISIC will establish "centres of excellence" in the UK for satellite data analysis, contribute to climate change studies, and advise on space system security.

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