UK Moves to Become Bigger Player in ESA

LONDON (UKSA PR) — Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts is about to negotiate the UK’s commitment to individual space programmes at the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Ministerial Council – a two-day meeting that takes place every four years to reach key decisions on European space programmes and activities for the future.

Following a commitment by the Government of an extra £60 million [$95.45 million] for the UK Space Agency to invest in ESA’s programmes, the UK will be in an excellent position to negotiate strong leadership roles within various projects and has already secured the future of the European Space Agency (ESA) facility in Oxfordshire, including transferring ESA’s telecoms satellite headquarters to the UK and creating over 100 new high-tech jobs.

The extra funding that the UK Space Agency will receive from the Government will bring the UK’s total investment in the European Space Agency to an average of £240 million [$381.8 million] per year over the next five years.

The new resources will be focused on those projects that will bring economic growth to the UK. One example is a new generation platform for telecommunications satellites. This will provide a 20 year horizon for new satellite sales that are competitive in the global market. Another is the next generation of weather satellites, where a UK contribution to ESA programmes will bring significant business through future orders.

The Ministerial Council is due to start in Naples on Tuesday 20 November and conclude on Wednesday 21 November. Proceedings will see Willetts and representatives from the UK Space Agency negotiate with the ministers in charge of space activities in ESA’s other member states to decide levels of funding and the future of ESA’s programmes.

Subject to the outcome of the high-level discussions, the UK space sector expects significant returns from this further investment. Industry has already identified projects to the value of £1 billion [$1.59 billion]that should follow in train from the additional funding.