Space agreements

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Science Minister David Willetts announces closer collaboration with US and Russian space agencies.

Speaking at Space Day at Farnborough Airshow, Mr Willetts announced the signing of agreements with NASA and the Russian Federal Space Bureau during his first major speech on space.

Key announcements in the speech included:

  • The signing of a Statement of Intent with NASA to work closely together on areas including space exploration and earth science.
  • The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Russia, which will see greater collaboration and help UK firms compete for work in Russia.
  • The launch of the CubeSat satellite programme.
  • A £4.9 million contract to build an Earth Observation Hub at Harwell, Oxfordshire.
  • The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council awarding fellowships totalling £38m.


The CubeSat project is a one year pilot programme to design and launch a shoebox-sized satellite.

Dubbed the UKube1, the satellite will allow the UK to test equipment and conduct research in a relatively cheap way.

Mr Willetts 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.

“Running a completion to see which experiments will go up with UKube1 is an inventive way to ensure it is fitted with the most creative and innovative payload ideas.”

Earth Observation Hub

Mr Willetts announced that the Government has signed a contract worth £4.9 million with Astrium to establish the hub at the International Science and Innovation Centre (ISIC) at Harwell.

He 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 so we can respond quickly to natural disasters throughout the world.”


Mr Willetts attended the Farnborough Airshow as part of its dedicated Space Day activities. Following the speech, he toured the Space Zone area and spoke with UK SME’s involved in the space sector.

Business Secretary Vince Cable and Business and Enterprise Minister Mark Prisk visited the Farnborough Airshow on Monday, 19 July 2010.


BIS press notice

David Willetts’ speech

Images of NASA signing

UK Space Agency

Space Zone at Farnborough

BBC News report on Earth Observation Hub