A new age of co-operation between the UK Space Agency and its Russian and American counterparts has been announced.
Space Minister David Willetts revealed the UK has signed new agreements with NASA and the Russian Federal Space Bureau during his first major speech on space at the Farnborough Airshow.
Under the terms of the agreement, the UK Space Agency and NASA will look for new areas where they can work together. There are a number of areas ready for greater co-operation such as space exploration to improve scientific understanding of the universe and earth sciences, which includes climate change.
The Memorandum of Understanding with Russia will help pave the way to a more detailed agreement between the two countries, which will address specific customs and tax issues raised previously.
David Willetts also announced a one year pilot programme to design and launch a CubeSat, which is a shoebox-size satellite that can be fitted with the latest space technology.
The compact size of the satellite, which is called UKube1, will allow the UK to test new equipment and carry out research in a relatively cheap way. There will be a competition for companies and academic groups to come up with the most innovative ideas for UKube1’s payload.
Earth Observation Hub
The minister also revealed a £4.9m contract has been awarded to build an Earth Observation Hub at the International Space Innovation Centre in Oxfordshire.
The hub will enable the UK to manage spacecraft operations and process the information collected by future space missions. The contract has gone to a consortium led by Astrium and the hub will be amongst the first in Europe that will actively encourage direct collaboration between government, industry and academics.