UK Gets Its Own Space Agency

Budget, research policy, and much else have yet to be worked out

2 min read

It's a little surprising that the land of Sir Isaac Newton does not have its own space agency. An attempt to fill that void came with the announcement in December that the UK would create a "bureaucracy busting" organization to oversee British civilian space and satellite activities.

Now comes the hard part. The announcement did not specify who will lead the new agency, how much funding it will receive, how those funds will be distributed and to what projects, or where the agency will be based, among other things. "All that has happened is that a decision has been taken to set up a space agency," says Richard Peckham, business development director for space systems company EADS Astrium and chairman of UKspace, a space industry trade association. At press time, a government working group was being set up to sort out the many details.

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.

NASA

For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.

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