UK Space Agency
UK Space Agency logo.svg
Agency overview
Formed1 April 2010; 12 years ago (2010-04-01)
TypeExecutive agency
JurisdictionUnited Kingdom, Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories
HeadquartersPolaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon, Wiltshire
51°34′00.6″N 1°47′6″W / 51.566833°N 1.78500°W / 51.566833; -1.78500Coordinates: 51°34′00.6″N 1°47′6″W / 51.566833°N 1.78500°W / 51.566833; -1.78500
Minister responsible
Grant Shapps
(Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
Chief ExecutivePaul Bate
Deputy Chief ExecutiveIan Annett[1]
OwnerDepartment for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Annual budget£469 million (2019/2020)[2]
WebsiteUK Space Agency

The United Kingdom Space Agency (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;[3][4] it represents the United Kingdom in all negotiations on space matters.[5][6] The Agency "[brings] together all UK civil space activities under one single management".[3] It is based at the former BNSC headquarters in Swindon, Wiltshire.[5][7][8]

History and aims

The creation of the UK Space Agency was first publicly announced and strongly supported by UK Minister of State for Science and Innovation, Lord Drayson, on 10 December 2009 during a speech at the Rutherford Appleton Lab (RAL) space conference. As the UK Space Agency neared its official opening day, Lord Mandelson, Lord Drayson and astronaut Tim Peake announced its establishment at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre on 23 March 2010.[9]

Around £230 million of funding and management functions were merged into the UK Space Agency from other organisations.[5] "Improving co-ordination of UK efforts in fields such as Earth science, telecoms and space exploration" will form part of its remit, according to Lord Drayson.[10]

Prior to the creation of the Agency, the space and satellite industry in the UK was valued at £9 billion and supported 68,000 jobs.[11] The 20-year aim of the Agency is to increase the industry to £40 billion and 100,000 jobs,[3] 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) report, published by the Space Innovation and Growth Team in February 2010.[5]

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. Alice Bunn is the International Director.[12]

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".[5]

Transfers of authority

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

On 31 January 2021, The Daily Telegraph reported that following a government "Space Landscape Review" responsibility for space policy and strategy was being transferred to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Earlier, responsibility for regulation, such as for spacecraft launch, had been transferred to the Civil Aviation Authority. A new cabinet committee, the National Space Council, was soon due to have its first meeting following its announcement in the 2019 Queen's Speech.[14]

UK Space Gateway

The UK Space Gateway at Harwell, Oxfordshire 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 European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT)

Main article: European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications

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 the ESA's first British Director General, Roy Gibson, ECSAT's 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.

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.[15] 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.

International Space Innovation Centre

A £40m International Space Innovation Centre (ISIC) was created in 2011 at Harwell[3] 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.[16] In April 2013, ISIC merged into the newly formed Satellite Applications Catapult.[17]

Abandoned independent satellite navigation system

Main article: United Kingdom Global Navigation Satellite System

In November 2018, the British government announced that the UK Space Agency would abandon ties to the European Space Agency's Galileo navigation system following Brexit in favour of developing its own system of navigation satellites.[18] The total cost of the United Kingdom Global Navigation Satellite System project was estimated at £5 billion.[19]

In July 2020, the UK government and Indian conglomerate Bharti Enterprises jointly purchased the bankrupt OneWeb satellite company.[20] The UKSA had advised the government that OneWeb was not suitable as a basis for a satellite navigation system.[21] On 25 September 2020, The Daily Telegraph reported that the United Kingdom Global Navigation Satellite System project had been scrapped. The project, deemed unnecessary and too expensive, will be replaced with a new project that will explore alternative ways to provide satellite navigation services.[22]

Key people

The agency's chief executive since September 2021 is Dr Paul Bate, a civil servant with a PhD in particle physics.[23] Graham Turnock, a physicist who had previously worked at HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, was the chief executive from March 2017[24][25] until the end of his four-year term in 2021.[26][27] Libby Jackson is the agency's Head of Space Exploration.[28]


Proposed sites for spaceports, and the companies associated with them, are as follows:

Other UK bodies

RAL Space, based at STFC's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, carries out space research and technology development.

The Space Academic Network provides a voice for the academic research community.[33]

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, headquartered at Porton Down, Wiltshire, began a five-year programme of defence-related space research in 2017.[34]

See also


  1. ^ "Plans advance for first orbital rocket launch from UK soil". UK Defence Journal. 9 February 2021. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  2. ^ ((citation|title= UK Space Agency Annual Report and Accounts 2019 to 2020
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "New space agency and new international space centre for UK". BNSC. 23 March 2010. Archived from the original on 27 March 2010.
  4. ^ "The United Kingdom Space Agency (Transfer of Property etc.) Order 2011". National Archives, via Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e Amos, Jonathan (23 March 2010). "'Muscular' UK Space Agency launched". BBC News. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  6. ^ esa. "UK Space Agency announced". European Space Agency.
  7. ^ "The Press Association: UK's space agency to be revealed". Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  8. ^ "UK Space Agency launched in London". Telegraph. 23 March 2010. Archived from the original on 26 March 2010. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  9. ^ "UK Space Agency". 23 March 2010. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  10. ^ "Science Minister launches the UK Space Agency". Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  11. ^ Hui, Sylvia (24 March 2010). "British Version of NASA to Begin Work in April". Southern Illinoisan. Carbondale, Illinois. Associated Press. p. 6B – via
  12. ^ "Dr Alice Bunn – TEDxLondon". TEDxLondon. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  13. ^ "News from Council – March 2010". STFC. 26 March 2010. Archived from the original on 16 May 2013.
  14. ^ Titcomb, James (31 January 2021). "Shake up for UK's space plans after OneWeb row". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  15. ^ "The Satellite Applications Catapult". Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  16. ^ "Oxfordshire to get £40m space centre". BBC. 23 March 2010.
  17. ^ National Space Programmes 2014-2015 (PDF) (Report). July 2014. p. 11. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  18. ^ "Minister quits over 'naive' Brexit deal". BBC News. 1 December 2018. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  19. ^ Titcomb, James (8 May 2020). "Britain's £5 billion rival to EU's Galileo satellite project faces scrap". The Telegraph. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  20. ^ "UK takes £400m stake in satellite firm OneWeb". BBC News. 3 July 2020. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  21. ^ Titcomb, James; Field, Matthew (26 June 2020). "Space Agency officials say $500m OneWeb investment unsuitable for creating British sat-nav system". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  22. ^ Diver, Tony (25 September 2020). "Britain scraps satellite programme designed to replace Galileo after Brexit". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  23. ^ "Dr Paul Bate". GOV.UK. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  24. ^ "Dr Graham Turnock". GOV.UK. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  25. ^ Massey, Nina (27 November 2019). "UK 'stands ready to play full part in European Space Agency'". Belfast Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 16 January 2021 – via Press Association.
  26. ^ Titcomb, James (13 January 2021). "Exclusive: Head of the UK Space Agency resigns". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  27. ^ "UK Space Agency CEO to step down". GOV.UK. UK Space Agency. 13 January 2021. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  28. ^ "New Year Honours recognition for space experts". GOV.UK. Retrieved 18 March 2023.
  29. ^ "Lift-off for Shetland spaceport". 22 October 2020. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  30. ^ Foust, Jeff (7 February 2021). "Lockheed Martin selects ABL Space Systems for UK launch". SpaceNews. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  31. ^ Pultarova, Tereza. "Space Hub Sutherland".
  32. ^ Whitehouse, Richard; Matthews, Chris (18 September 2019). "Cornwall Spaceport latest – Council cabinet agrees £12million funding". Cornwall Live. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  33. ^ "website of the Space Academic Network".
  34. ^ "Three...two…one…blast off! Dstl launches £50 million Space Programme". GOV.UK. 4 October 2017. Retrieved 7 February 2018.

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