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UK Space Agency is go!
Posted: 24 March

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Britain's first European Space Agency astronaut, Major Timothy Peake, yesterday unveiled the logo that will front the UK’s new Space Agency.

The agency, which begins official business on 1 April, will speak for Britain on space policy matters and will bring together all UK civil space activities under one single management, replacing the British National Space Centre. Until now, the responsibilities were split between a partnership of government departments and research councils, the monies of which – approximately £230 million a year – will come under the new space agency's control.

The 'flying arrow' logo of the UK Space Agency.

Business secretary Lord Mandelson and science minister Lord Drayson presented the remit of the UK Space Agency to over 300 delegates at yesterday's auspicious launch event held at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London.

“We need to harvest and develop UK talents,” Lord Mandelson said in his address. “The agency will provide the muscle needed to coordinate space policy. It will create new skills and well paid jobs and will secure the UK’s economic future.”

The UK’s space and satellite industry currently supports 68,000 jobs in the UK and contributes £6 billion to the economy. The 20 year goal of the agency is to boost this to some 100,000 jobs and an industry value of £40 billion, to ensure that the UK continues to play a key role in space industry. Weather forecasting, navigation, GPS and broadband internet are just some of the areas that the UK industry already excels in. When asked of the long-term 50-100 year plan of the space agency, Lord Drayson offered that he would like to see the UK launch its own space vehicles and to eventually have humans living and working on Mars.

A new £40 million International Space Innovation Centre to be sited at Harwell, within the European Space Agency Facility that opened last July, will provide the hub of the UK’s space activities. Previously, the UK was the only major member of ESA that did not have such a facility.

The UK Space Agency's profile will be significantly raised following the appointment of British astronaut Major Peake as an ambassador for space careers. Peake has already completed six months of intensive training as part of ESA's astronaut corps and will build strong links with school children to inspire the next generation of space scientists and engineers. Together with a strengthened bond between individual industrial companies and public relations, it is hoped that the public will become more aware of the importance of the UK's space industry on everyday lives.

"The action we're taking today shows we're really serious about space," said Drayson. "Britain's space industry has defied the recession and the government's commitments on space will help the sector go from strength to strength. The new space agency is about making sure that the UK fully exploits its competitive advantage in satellites, robotics and related technologies."