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US-UK spaceport agreement heralds new era in launch operations

Stephen Kuper

The UK and US governments have signed a new agreement paving the way for US companies to operate from UK spaceports and export space launch technology.

US-UK spaceport agreement heralds new era in launch operations
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UK ambassador Dame Karen Pierce and US Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Christopher Ford signed the US-UK Technology Safeguards Agreement, which will enable US companies to participate in space launches from the UK, on Tuesday, 16 June 2020.

The agreement means US space and technology companies throughout the supply chain can contribute to and benefit from the commercial opportunities offered by the UK space sector, which already employs 42,000 people and generates an income of £14.8 billion each year.

UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway explained, "This deal with the US takes us one step closer to seeing the first ever launch into space from British soil. 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 government has already awarded grants totalling nearly £40 million to establish commercial vertical and horizontal small satellite launch from UK spaceports and put in place the necessary regulation to enable the first launches to take place in the early 2020s.

Karen Pierce, UK ambassador to the US, added, "This agreement marks an exciting new area for UK-US space collaboration and represents a significant step towards US companies launching from UK spaceports."

The UK government’s Spaceflight Program aims to establish commercial vertical and horizontal small satellite launch from UK spaceports. Bringing launch to the UK will be a catalyst for growth in the wider space industry, and the government is also developing a comprehensive national space strategy to bring long-term strategic and commercial benefits for the UK.

"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," Pierce added. 

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