We have lift off: UK and US pen landmark partnership to drive space growth

Friday 13 May 2022 6:00 am

Future spaceflight is set to be made easier and cheaper, following a landmark partnership with the US to help cut red tape and boost opportunities in the UK, signed by the Transport Secretary this week in Washington. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg signed a declaration on Wednesday to work together on future commercial spaceflight missions, in the iconic Smithsonian Institution.

The partnership will help launch cheaper, quicker and more streamlined spaceflight operations through close collaboration between the two countries on licensing of commercial space launches. The move will cut down red tape and the regulatory burden to operators resulting in greater efficiencies and a reduction in costs, resources and duplication, while maintaining stringent safety standards. The new declaration sends a clear signal to countries across the globe that the UK aims to be a European hub of space activity, and lays the foundation for rockets, high-altitude balloons and spaceplanes to lift off from spaceports across the UK very soon.

This comes as the UK prepares to make its first-ever launch from home soil, and Europe, later this year from Spaceport Cornwall. Commenting on the move, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “This transformational partnership is one giant leap for both countries, as we prepare for an exciting new era of spaceflight to lift-off”, adding that the partnership with provide high-skilled jobs for many across the country”. In 2020, UK space-related organisations produced GBP16.5bn in income, supporting around 47,000 jobs. 

A key driver is to reduce the UK’s reliance on other launch countries to put British built and operated satellites into space that provide benefits to all. Back in March, tax-payer backed OneWeb cut its ties with the planned Russian Baikonur satellites launches following the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg commented on the move: “Commercial space travel is growing swiftly, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that these innovations advance safely, encouraging them to develop in ways that benefit us all.”

The first satellites are set to launch from UK soil later this year.

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