UK Space Agency

UK Space Agency

Official logo of the UK Space Agency
Abbreviation UKSA
Formation 1 April 2010
Legal status Executive agency of Her Majesty's Government
Headquarters Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon, Wiltshire, SN2 1SZ
Owner  United Kingdom

Jo Johnson MP

Minister of State for Universities & Science
Chief Executive
Katherine Courtney
Parent organization
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
£322.6 million (2013/2014)[1]

The United Kingdom Space Agency (commonly known as the UK Space Agency or UKSA) is an executive agency of the Government of the United Kingdom, responsible for the United Kingdom's civil space programme. It was established on 1 April 2010 to replace the British National Space Centre (BNSC) and took over responsibility for government policy and key budgets for space exploration,[2][3] and represents the United Kingdom in all negotiations on space matters.[4][5] It "[brings] together all UK civil space activities under one single management".[2] It is based at the former BNSC headquarters in Swindon, Wiltshire.[4][6][7][8]

Creation and aims

The establishment of the UK Space Agency was announced by Lord Mandelson, Lord Drayson and astronaut Major Timothy Peake at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre on 23 March 2010.

Around £230 million of funding and management functions were merged into the UK Space Agency from other organisations.[4] "Improving coordination of UK efforts in fields such as Earth science, telecoms and space exploration" will form part of its remit, according to Lord Drayson.[9]

Prior to the creation of the UK Space Agency, the space and satellite industry in the UK was valued at £6 billion and supported 68,000 jobs. The 20-year aim of the UK Space Agency is to increase the industry to £40 billion and 100,000 jobs,[2] and to represent 10% of worldwide space products and services (increasing from the current 6%). This plan arises from the "Space Innovation and Growth Strategy" (Space-IGS).[4]

Dr David Williams was appointed Acting Chief Executive on 1 April 2010 and he was confirmed as the first CEO on 1 April 2011. At the ESA Council at Ministerial level in November 2012 the UK budget for space was significantly increased.

Although Space-IGS called for the UK to double European Space Agency (ESA) contributions and to initiate and lead at least three missions between now and 2030, this has not been committed to, with Lord Drayson stating that "We will require a compelling business case for each proposal or mission".[4]

UK Space Gateway

The UK Space Gateway at Harwell is a focal point for growth in the UK’s space sector. Harwell is home to a growing number of space organisations including start-ups, inward investors, corporate offices, the Satellite Applications Catapult, RAL Space and ESA’s ECSAT Facility. As of April 2016, the site is estimated to host over 600 space-related employees working in circa 60 organisations. The UK Space Agency is working closely with local and national stakeholders with a shared ambition to grow the space sector both at Harwell and across the UK. The ambition is to create a vibrant community that acts as a focal point for the UK’s space sector and to raise awareness of the opportunities space offers for economic growth across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, joining up capabilities and maximising the benefits that Harwell can bring to support growth of the sector across the United Kingdom. The space sector’s vision for Harwell is firmly rooted in the ambition for economic growth set out in the UK Civil Space Strategy and the Space Innovation and Growth Strategy

The European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT)

ESA’s UK facility, ECSAT, has been developing steadily since 2008, following the UK government’s decision to increase its contribution to ESA. Named after ESA’s British first Director General, Roy Gibson, ECSAT’s new building hosts 100+ jobs including teams in telecommunications and integrated applications. Special emphasis is put on the development of new markets for satellite-based services and applications. In addition, new satellite, ground infrastructure and product developments are being initiated through original schemes of public–private partnerships with world-class operators. The building also houses the Earth Observation Climate Office, Science and Exploration teams and Technology and Quality Management teams supporting ESA research and development programmes in the UK, focusing on ‘game-changing’ technologies and capabilities. The new ECSAT building was opened in July 2015 by Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities & Science.

RAL Space

RAL Space, based at STFC's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, carries out world-class space research and technology development. RAL Space’s R100 building is a major expansion of their test facilities; including two new 5m diameter Space Test Chambers along with a vibration facility, clean rooms and AIV (Assembly, Integration and Verification) control room. These enhanced facilities are used for important future projects including ESA’s Sentinel 4 mission as part of Europe’s Copernicus programme and solar and heliospheric physics with the Solar Orbiter mission. Phase 1 of R100 was opened in July 2015 by Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities & Science.

The Satellite Applications Catapult

The Satellite Applications Catapult is an independent innovation and technology company, created as part of the Catapult centres programme to foster growth across the economy through the exploitation of space.[10] The Catapult helps organisations make use of and benefit from satellite technologies, and bring together multi-disciplinary teams to generate ideas and solutions in an open innovation environment. It was established in May 2013 by Innovate UK (formerly known as the Technology Strategy Board) as one of a network of centres to accelerate the take-up of emerging technologies and drive economic growth. It is a not-for-profit research organisation which is registered as a private company limited by guarantee and controlled by its Board. The International Space Innovation Centre (ISIC), created in April 2011, was merged into the Satellite Applications Catapult upon its creation.

International Space Innovation Centre

Alongside the UK Space Agency, a £40m International Space Innovation Centre (ISIC) was created in 2011 at Harwell, Oxfordshire,[2] alongside the research facility for ESA. Some of its tasks were to investigate climate change, and the security of space systems. £24m of the cost of the centre was to be funded by the government, with the remainder from industry.[11] In April 2013, ISIC merged into the newly formed Satellite Applications Catapult.

Transfer of authority

The UK Space Agency took over the following responsibilities from other government organisations:

See also


  1. UK Space Agency annual report and accounts 2013 to 2014 (pdf), retrieved 2014-09-25
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "New space agency and new international space centre for UK". BNSC. 23 March 2010.
  3. "The United Kingdom Space Agency (Transfer of Property etc.) Order 2011". National Archives, via Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Amos, Jonathan (23 March 2010). "'Muscular' UK Space Agency launched". BBC News. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  5. UK Space Agency announced
  6. "The Press Association: UK's space agency to be revealed". UKPA, via Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  7. David Derbyshire (24 March 2010). "British space centre to be revealed ... but will it be called Her Majesty's Space Agency (MASA) | Mail Online". London: Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  8. "UK Space Agency launched in London". Telegraph. 23 March 2010. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  9. "Science Minister launches the UK Space Agency". Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  10. "The Satellite Applications Catapult". Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  11. "Oxfordshire to get £40m space centre". BBC. 23 March 2010.
  12. "News from Council – March 2010". STFC. 26 March 2010.

Video clips

Coordinates: 51°34′00.6″N 1°47′06″W / 51.566833°N 1.78500°W / 51.566833; -1.78500

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