UK and Russia look to the skies to improve life on Earth

July 21, 2010

The newly formed UK Space Agency has signed an agreement with the Russian Federal Space Bureau, Roscosmos, that promises to boost collaboration on space research between the two countries.

The memorandum of understanding, announced today, does not commit either body to specific projects.

However, Vitaly Davyidov, deputy head of Roscosmos, said the agreement would soon lead to a “whole number of joint projects” aimed primarily at applying space technologies to the “social and economic development of Russia, the UK and Europe in general”.

David Williams, acting chief executive of the UK Space Agency, which was set up in March, said: “Space provides governments with the possibility to improve lives across their communities, along with offering novel commercial opportunities. It is a truly global activity and one where it is right that we should work together”.

Meanwhile, in a speech in Farnborough today, David Willetts, the universities and science minister, announced the launch of a new UK centre for monitoring the Earth from space. The Earth observation hub will focus on acquiring environmental data, as well as acting as a flight operations centre for satellites, and will be based at the International Space Innovation Centre (ISIC) at Harwell in Oxfordshire, which will open in 2011.

Mr Willetts said the centre would not be a “centralising force”, but would link regional space capabilities and promote knowledge-sharing between academia and industry.

“ISIC will operate at arm's length from the UK Space Agency so that it becomes a common facility within the Harwell campus,” he said.

“And at Harwell, the new European Space Agency facility is already working well, especially in climate change science and related applications.

“Soon it will have an incubator for new space businesses and work on space exploration. This is a fantastic additional catalyst for UK space.”

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