UK and US pledge space cooperation

NASA and the British National Space Centre (BNSC) recently signed an agreement to jointly study how the two space agencies might work together on future planetary explorations to the Moon.


NASA and the British National Space Centre (BNSC) recently signed an agreement to jointly study how the two space agencies might work together on future planetary explorations to the Moon and beyond.



A joint team is to be established to conduct a study into the possibility of a collaborative lunar robotic programme.



Science and Innovation Minister Malcolm Wicks said: ‘During my recent meeting with NASA’s Administrator Dr Michael Griffin, I was keen for the USA and UK to co-operate on exactly this sort of exciting endeavour.



‘I am delighted that this important agreement has been signed between our two space agencies which could provide an opportunity to harness the UK‘s world-class expertise in small satellite and robotic technologies.’



The UK has already completed a feasibility study of two robotic mission options to the surface of the Moon: MoonRaker, a small propulsive Lander to provide in-situ geological dating; and MoonLITE which is equipped with missile-shaped penetrators carrying seismometers to investigate the lunar interior and a telecommunications capability to demonstrate high data rate telecoms at the Moon.



Professor Keith Mason, CEO Science and Technology Facilities Council and Chairman of the UK Space Board commented: ’NASA is committed to a long-term lunar exploration programme leading to a scientific research outpost, likely near the lunar South Pole, by 2020.



‘In advance of this, permanent robotic communications and navigation infrastructure will need to be installed in lunar orbit in parallel with scientific reconnaissance of the surface. And this is where UK industry and academia could play a vital part. We have unique expertise in small satellites and miniaturised instruments which could provide a low cost lunar telecoms capability, whilst simultaneously deploying probes to the Moon’s surface in order to characterise the surface and interior.



‘This latest agreement with NASA, coupled with the UK’s major role in ESA’s Aurora programme of planetary exploration and our involvement in helping to shape a Global Exploration Strategy, means the UK is fully exploiting and strategically maximising its technological and scientific strengths in space exploration.’



The UK space sector is said to be worth £4.8bn per annum, supports 70,000 jobs and makes an overall contribution to UK GDP of almost £7bn per annum.