ESA links under scrutiny as MPs look into space

The House of Commons’ Trade and Industry Committee has launched an inquiry into UK space policy, following the announcement in August of a UK national space strategy. MPs will examine issues including the role of the British National Space Centre (BNSC) and the balance between European Space Agency (ESA) and national programmes. But it will […]

The House of Commons’ Trade and Industry Committee has launched an inquiry into UK space policy, following the announcement in August of a UK national space strategy.

MPs will examine issues including the role of the British National Space Centre (BNSC) and the balance between European Space Agency (ESA) and national programmes. But it will not address UK involvement in the International Space Station – a decision will be made on that issue later this year.

David Leadbeater, the BNSC’s deputy director-general, said the inquiry has `no particular agenda’, with MPs turning to space issues as part of a wider examination of industrial policy.

The MPs will look into UK participation in projects including the Mars Express spacecraft and its British Beagle 2 lander, the Galileo satellite navigation system, and the Artes communication research project.

The UK is reviewing its role in European space launcher projects, possibly including ESA’s large Ariane 5 rocket. It is involved in the Ariane 4 rocket which launches most ESA satellites.

The inquiry will also examine links between the UK’s space science base and commercial applications, and the exploitation of space, including the threat of space debris colliding with operating satellites.

The committee will take oral evidence next year and is inviting submissions from organisations and individuals by the end of February.

The Department of Trade and Industry spends around £145m a year on space, including funding for ESA and national research programmes.