Oxfordshire: European Space Agency unveils first UK facility

On May 14, David Willetts, UK minister for universities and science, and Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general of the European Space Agency (ESA), will unveil the new name and look of ESA’s first-ever UK facility. Immediately following this unveiling, Willetts will attend the official opening of the Satellite Applications Catapult, also based at Harwell Campus. 

The new ESA establishment is the first of its kind in the UK and reflects the increasing national importance of space. ESA’s expansion into the UK is also a clear sign that ESA is matching the increased importance given to space by the UK Government. The new facility will work hand-in-hand with national organisations to advance activities related to climate change, technology and science, with a special focus on integrated applications promotion (IAP) – the combined use of different space and terrestrial technologies, data and infrastructures to create new everyday applications.

The Satellite Applications Catapult has been established by the Technology Strategy Board to support UK industry and research communities in the development and commercial exploitation of space and satellite-based products, services and applications.

Both facilities are based in the Harwell Science, Innovation and Business campus, which is home to over 150 of the UK’s most prestigious science and technology organisations including RAL Space and ESA’s Business Incubation Centre. Working closely together, the Harwell space organisations have the potential to maximise the growth of the UK’s £9.1 billion space sector and help the country to realise its ambition of a £40b space industry by 2030.

Space has been identified as a growth sector in the UK, reporting a long-term average growth of 8.6%. In a time of economic stagnation the UK space sector actually returns investment in a big way, with every pound it receives, an additional pound being returned to the British economy.