By Max Clarke

The UK Space Agency is to become an executive agency of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills today.

“Today represents 12 months of hard work from Agency staff and from colleagues at the Science and Technology Facilities Council, Technology Strategy Board, Natural Environment Research Council and other partners in industry and across Whitehall,” said UK Space Agency Chief Executive David Williams.

This will see the Agency taking over responsibility for the majority of the UK’s commitment to space exploration and science. Efforts will be targeted at areas that have the greatest potential for delivering economic benefits, scientific excellence and national security.

Continued Williams: “Now established, we need to use the upcoming months to set the direction of travel for the UK space sector. That means concentrating on encouraging growth and engaging with industry, academia and other government departments to make sure we’re developing in the right way.”

Last month, Science Minister David Willits announced 2011 to be the UK-Russia Year of Space, in which the two nations were to increase collaboration in aerospace industries and deliver maximum growth in the profitable industry.

Priority areas include developing scientific advancements in space technologies, gaining a better understanding of our planet through Earth observation spacecraft, and nurturing our next generation of space scientists and researchers.

The UK space industry is worth an estimated £7.5 billion and is an important driver for economic growth.