The government and the European Space Agency (ESA) have signed an agreement-in-principle to develop an ESA research centre at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus (HSIC), Oxfordshire.
Lord Drayson, UK minister for science and innovation and ESA director-general, Jean-Jacques Dordain, signed the agreement to secure an ESA research centre in the UK at an ESA Ministerial conference at The Hague on 26 November.
Prof Keith Mason, chief executive of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), one of the major partners in HSIC, said: ‘The development of an ESA centre at the HSIC is a direct result of the UK’s strong record in space, both within industry and in academia.
‘The proposed space centre will place an emphasis on exploiting the benefits of space to terrestrial users, and knowledge exchange and development to support the future ESA programme, including planetary exploration and understanding the changing climate of the Earth.’
The research centre could be operational within a year. Once established, the new centre will expand the ESA’s existing pan-European infrastructure facilities by enabling the agency to develop key technologies and capabilities, particularly new work on climate change modelling that uses space data and the development of technologies for planetary exploration.