By Claire West

Space Minister David Willetts has announced a new age of co-operation between the UK Space Agency and its Russian and American counterparts.

He revealed that the UK had signed agreements with NASA and the Russian Federal Space Bureau, at a major speech at the Farnborough Airshow. Under the terms of the agreement, the UK Space Agency and NASA will look for new areas in which they can work together.

Mr. Willetts said: “I am delighted to usher in an era of greater co-operation between our nations’ space activities. These agreements show our international partners view Britain as a major player in the space industry. They will help bring new opportunities for British innovators’.

Mr. Willets said that a shoebox-sized satellite called a ‘CubeSat’ would be launched, which will allow the UK to test new equipment and carry out research in a relatively cheap way. He said: ’Britain’s first CubeSat will bring major benefits to the UK space industry. Firms will now have a cheap and quick way to test their latest prototypes’.

The minister also revealed that a £4.9 million contract had 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.

Mr Willets said: ‘The Earth Observation Hub will help UK scientists make the most of the wealth of information we are collecting about our home planet, in vital areas such as monitoring the effects of climate change or so we can respond quickly to natural disasters throughout the world’.

‘It’s the important first step in making the International Space Innovation Centre a reality, linking regional space capabilities and promoting knowledge-sharing between academia and industry. This will support further growth in a sector already worth more than £6 billion a year to our economy’.


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