British and American government ministers have signed a deal to power up the UK’s spaceports programme and boost tech exports.
The UK Space Agency said today the agreement will allow US companies to operate and launch rockets and satellites from British spaceports, as well as support their participation in the UK space sector supply chain.
The deal — known as the US-UK Technology Safeguards Agreement — was signed yesterday by the UK’s ambassador to the US Dame Karen Pierce and US assistant secretary of state for international security and non-proliferation Christopher Ford.
“This deal with the US takes us one step closer to seeing the first ever launch into space from British soil,” said science minister Amanda Solloway.
“This is a key moment for our commercial space industry, and I look forward to seeing companies from Scotland to Newquay benefiting, and the creation of highly skilled jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.”
The UK space sector now employs 42,000 people and generates income of £14.8bn a year. The government has awarded grants of almost £40m thus far, and plans to have the regulation in place to permit vertical and horizontal launches within the next five years.
The agreement comes as the UK charted its first successful launch on Shetlands soil this week, testing out one of three proposed commercial spaceports in Scotland. Development of a major spaceport in Cornwall is still underway.
Technology billionaire and Spacex chief executive Elon Musk said yesterday he has plans to build floating spaceports out at sea, in preparation hypersonic flights around Earth.
“This agreement marks an exciting new area for UK-US space collaboration and represents a significant step towards US companies launching from UK spaceports,” added Pierce.
“The commercial space sector already represents hundreds of millions of dollars in trade between our two countries each year, as well as thousands of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. This new agreement will generate further growth and prosperity for both our countries.”