Turning the Coalition’s eyes to space

Today saw the launch of the Space Leadership Council, which will advise the UK Space Agency on its activities. It is a group taken mainly from industry, including Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn, and also includes academic and government members. The Council is Co Chaired by the Science Minister David Willetts and CEO of Logica, Andy Green.

In the BBC report, Willetts suggests he will be moving space funding into a single pot and also mentions he will be looking at the “controversies” of the Science and Technology Facilities Council. Willetts also said he personally (ie not government policy) would like to see Virgin Galactic being able to launch from Britain.

Points the Department for Business Innovation and Skills were keen to stress about the UK Space Agency were:

The UK space and satellite sector has grown in real terms by around 9 percent a year since 1999/00 – more than three times faster than the economy as a whole.

The UK Space Agency (www.ukspaceagency.bis.gov.uk)The UK Space Agency is at the heart of UK efforts to explore and benefit from space.  It is responsible for all strategic decisions on the UK civil space programme and provides a clear, single voice for UK space ambitions. The UK civil space programme budget is currently in the order of £270m per year – about 76% of which is the UK’s contribution to European Space Agency (ESA) projects. Second only to the USA in space science, the UK’s thriving space sector contributes £6.5bn a year to the UK economy and supports 68,000 jobs.

The Agency:

  • Co-ordinates UK civil space activity
  • Supports academic research
  • Nurtures the UK space industry
  • Raises the profile of UK space activities at home and abroad
  • Works to increase understanding of space science and its practical benefits
  • Inspires our next generation of UK scientists and engineers
  • In other science policy news, the twitter feed of CaSE reports that there are now two Labour MPs fighting it out for chair of the science and technology committee. Andrew Miller enters the fray along with Graham Stringer, who had already made clear his intentions to stand.

    Meanwhile, Research Councils UK, the council in charge of cross-disciplinary matters of the seven UK research councils, has announced an independent review into what has been done to put into place the recommendations of the 2002 Sir Gareth Roberts’ review SET for Success, looking at the employability and career development of research students and staff.

    (UPDATE: It appears the enthusiasm for space in government doesn’t apply to Italy, as there are rumours of massive cuts at the National Institute for Astronomy and even full closure 400 years after Galileo – more details on the rumours here)

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