UK sets up space leadership council

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The UK government is to set up a leadership council for the spaceflight industry as it nears a decision on what to call its new space agency.

The council will oversee the implementation of recommendations from the space innovation and growth team report. Published on 10 February, it advocates a doubling of UK spending on spaceflight to more than £500 million ($780 million) by 2020.

The report has 16 recommendations including a technology programme that begins at £20 million this year, rising to £100 million by 2015; a UK Earth observation system; a satellite technology demonstrator; export credit guarantee support; satellites for universal broadband access; and participation in robotic and human exploration.

Industry wants a decision on the £20 million technology programme by May, but the UK is expected to have a general election that month.

Speaking at the report's publication, economic secretary to the Treasury, member of parliament and former space minister Ian Pearson said: "We want to look at the recommendations."

He added that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills "has a substantial budget and we are about to have another CSR [comprehensive spending review]. The more evidence we have for investment the better."

The government will formally respond to the report in March. Recommendations it accepts will then be implemented by the council. If the ruling Labour party remains in power after the general election its next spending review will decide in 2011 what is spent on space.

EADS Astrium UK chief executive Colin Paynter says: "I don't want to see money now, I want to see new structures from which money can flow in future."

Those new structures include the new space agency, which industry wants operating by January 2011. The two names being considered by Drayson for the agency are Her Majesty's Space Agency and UK Space Agency. Drayson says he prefers Her Majesty's Space Agency.