US and UK partner for future commercial spaceflight missions

The United Kingdom and the United States have signed a commercial spaceflight collaboration agreement that will make future spaceflight missions “easier and cheaper”.

The United Kingdom and the United States have signed a collaboration agreement to boost the countries' respective space industries. The agreement will allow firms from both countries to operate from spaceports in either location.

Britain said the partnership, signed by transport minister Grant Shapps and his US counterpart, Pete Buttigieg, in Washington this week, would make spaceflight “easier and cheaper”. The move is also expected to “cut down red tape” and reduce the regulatory burden to operators, in order to achieve greater efficiencies and a reduction in costs, resources and duplication while maintaining stringent safety standards.

The partnership will also see the two countries collaborate on the licensing of commercial space launches, and provide benefits including critical defence security and better weather forecasts, to enable television services and more efficient transport, Britain said.

The new declaration “sends a clear signal to countries across the globe” and is said to lay the foundation for rockets, high-altitude balloons and spaceplanes to lift off from spaceports across the UK “very soon”, according to the British government.

“This transformational partnership is one giant leap for both countries as we prepare for an exciting new era of spaceflight to lift off,” Shapps said.

Currently, the UK is in the process of developing seven spaceports across the country and it is preparing to make its first-ever launch from home soil, later this year from Spaceport Cornwall. The government expects the increased investment in the space sector will generate high-skilled jobs "up and down the country" and help level up some of the most remote communities.

The United States was proud to launch a partnership bringing more of the benefits of commercial space travel to  its  workers, businesses and communities, according to the US transport minister.

"Commercial space travel is growing swiftly, and it's our responsibility to ensure that these innovations advance safely, encouraging them to develop in ways that benefit us all," said Buttigieg.

The private sector has also welcomed this news, which will allow UK and US companies to operate from each other's spaceports, introducing new customers and revenues to each country.

“This agreement between the US and the UK will accelerate collaboration across all sectors of spaceflight,” said Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit. “As the Virgin Orbit team prepares for a space launch from Cornwall, compatibility between regulations can be a key enabler.”

As the UK space industry continues to thrive, the sector is injecting billions into the national economy. In 2020, UK space-related organisations produced £16.5 billion in income, supporting around 47,000 jobs. 

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