European space center at Harwell

November 27, 2008

The European Space Agency [ESA] and the United Kingdom government have today (26 November 2008) signed an agreement in principle to develop an ESA research centre at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.

Lord Drayson, UK Minister for Science and Innovation and ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain signed the agreement to secure an ESA research centre in the UK at the ESA Ministerial conference taking place at The Hague. The research centre, which will be based at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus (HSIC) in Oxfordshire, could be up and running within a year.

Professor Keith Mason, Chief Executive of the Science and Technology Facilities Council [STFC], one of the major partners in HSIC said, "STFC welcome this significant announcement, as I'm sure the UK space community will. The development of an ESA centre at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus is a direct result of the UK's strong record in space, both within industry and in academia.

The proposed space centre will place an emphasis on exploiting the benefits of space to terrestrial users, and knowledge exchange and development to support the future ESA programme, including planetary exploration and understanding the changing climate of the Earth. It will take full advantage of the unique environment being created at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus where state-of-the-art publicly funded scientific facilities will operate alongside industrial R&D."

Once established the new centre will expand ESA's existing pan European infrastructure facilities by enabling the agency to develop key technologies and capabilities, particularly new work on climate change modelling that uses space data and the development of technologies for a new era of planetary exploration, including robotics and novel power sources.

The ESA Ministerial Conference agreed an ambitious package of investment for Europe in space over the next 3-5 years (see DIUS press release: . Commenting on the package agreed, Professor Mason added "The commitment to the ESA programme expressed by member states underlines the growing importance of space as a critical national and international infrastructure. The package agreed today includes increased investment in ESA's science and exploration programmes, which will allow Europe to maintain its world-leading position in space research. This programme drives cutting edge technology development as well as inspiring young and old alike with spectacular discoveries about the solar system in which we live and the Universe beyond'.

Science and Technology Facilities Council

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