This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies. To find out more, see our Privacy and Cookies policy.
Skip to the content

Share this

Free weekly newswire

Sign up to receive all our latest news direct to your inbox.

Physics on film

100 Second Science Your scientific questions answered simply by specialists in less than 100 seconds.

Watch now

Bright Recruits

At all stages of your career – whether you're an undergraduate, graduate, researcher or industry professional – can help find the job for you.

Find your perfect job

Physics connect

Are you looking for a supplier? Physics Connect lists thousands of scientific companies, businesses, non-profit organizations, institutions and experts worldwide.

Start your search today


On Her Majesty’s Space Service

Agency men: Drayson and Scolese (Courtesy: RAL)

By Hamish Johnston

The UK’s science minister Paul Drayson was licensed to thrill yesterday when he turned up at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory to announce that the UK will set up its own executive space agency. Lord Drayson hinted that it might be called “Her Majesty’s Space Service”, and said it would provide “a unified approach to ensure the UK gains a bigger share of the global space market”.

Drayson was speaking to researchers at the 5th Appleton Space Science Conference, and the announcement was met with warm applause. Not surprising, because space scientists have been waiting at least 20 years for the news!

Space science funding is currently done by six government departments and two research councils — and it is not clear whether the new agency will coordinate these activities, or take over funding altogether.

However, Drayson was very clear that the overall spend on space science research will not change. And he was also adamant that the UK space community has long been at a disadvantage for not having an executive agency to negotiate its participation in international projects.

Although the UK is a leader in space science and technology, the government had not been particularly keen on space. The country has shunned manned space missions and the 1986 Space Act makes it very difficult for a private company to launch anything into space from British soil. The reason, believe it or not, is that firms cannot afford adequate insurance to comply with the indemnity requirements of the act.

But then Gordon Brown came to power in 2007 — and apparently Brown loves space science, or so I was told by a leading space scientist at the post-conference drinks reception. It seems that when Brown was Chancellor of the Exchequer he asked his minions to identify up-and-coming industry sectors and guess what was at the top of the list?

Indeed, in his speech Drayson said that 20,000 Britons are employed directly by the space industry, which is worth £6.8bn per year.

“It’s a recession proof industry” he claimed, citing 9% growth every year for the last decade. And the good news is set to continue, with 5% growth forecast for the next decade.

Drayson’s speech was followed by the Appleton Lecture by Chris Scolese, who is associate administrator of NASA. I wonder if the second in command of the world’s most famous space agency gave Drayson any tips on setting up an agency?

This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink.
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Comments are closed.


  • Comments should be relevant to the article and not be used to promote your own work, products or services.
  • Please keep your comments brief (we recommend a maximum of 250 words).
  • We reserve the right to remove excessively long, inappropriate or offensive entries.

Show/hide formatting guidelines

Tag Description Example Output
<a> Hyperlink <a href="">google</a> google
<abbr> Abbreviation <abbr title="World Health Organisation" >WHO</abbr> WHO
<acronym> Acronym <acronym title="as soon as possible">ASAP</acronym> ASAP
<b> Bold <b>Some text</b> Some text
<blockquote> Quoted from another source <blockquote cite="">IOP</blockquote>
<cite> Cite <cite>Diagram 1</cite> Diagram 1
<del> Deleted text From this line<del datetime="2012-12-17"> this text was deleted</del> From this line this text was deleted
<em> Emphasized text In this line<em> this text was emphasised</em> In this line this text was emphasised
<i> Italic <i>Some text</i> Some text
<q> Quotation WWF goal is to build a future <q cite="">
where people live in harmony with nature and animals</q>
WWF goal is to build a future
where people live in harmony with nature and animals
<strike> Strike text <strike>Some text</strike> Some text
<strong> Stronger emphasis of text <strong>Some text</strong> Some text