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UK Space Agency establishes Midlands base at Space Park Leicester

Staff from Space Park Leicester, UK Space Agency and the National Centre for Earth Observation based in Leicester

Space Park Leicester has been selected to host one of three new regional offices for the UK Space Agency, as part of its national expansion to support the space sector across the UK.

The expansion will see the UK’s executive agency for space activity base staff at the University of Leicester’s pioneering £100 million science and innovation park.

Aligned with the government’s Levelling Up strategy, the expansion will enable the Agency to collaborate more closely with the UK’s thriving space sector, while promoting regional skills and job opportunities to deliver increasingly ambitious missions and capabilities.

Within its first two years, Space Park Leicester has already been established as the second largest campus-based cluster with a dedicated space focus in the UK and generated an estimated £89m for the economy in its first year.

Professor Richard Ambrosi, Executive Director of Space Park Leicester, said: “Space scientists at the University of Leicester have a long history of working with the UK Space Agency on numerous space missions and programmes spanning upstream technology development and downstream science. University of Leicester expertise has supported missions with UK Space Agency involvement such as the European Space Agency’s Bepi Colombo mission to Mercury, the Rosalind Franklin Mission to Mars, the Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer mission to launch in 2025 and carbon monitoring mission MicroCarb just to name a few.”

Recent projects to receive support from UK Space Agency at Leicester include work on carbon mapping sensors for monitoring greenhouse gas emission management programmes in Bahrain. Funding has also been awarded for a Midlands Space Cluster Development Manager to work with local government, businesses and academia, to coordinate space activity and encourage collaboration and inward investment in the Midlands, as well as to the Midland Aerospace Alliance’s Pivot into Space R&D programme.

At the start of the year, University of Leicester scientists also received funding from the UK Space Agency’s Space Science and Exploration Bilateral Programme to deliver (with other UK and Spanish collaborators) a Raman spectroscopy instrument for commercial lunar rover and lander missions investigating minerals on the Moon, helping us to understand whether this is a resource that could be used for longer term lunar exploration.

Professor Sarah Davies, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Leicester, said: “We are delighted that the UK Space Agency is joining our dynamic and collaborative community at Space Park Leicester. Space Park draws together colleagues from industry and academia who are working in space and the space-enabled sectors and whose activities and objectives are consistent with those outlined in the recently-published Space Industrial Plan. Given the value of the UK space sector to our economy, locating UKSA offices in places such as Space City Leicester will be crucial to realising the UK’s ambitions in Space and the University of Leicester is committed to supporting that endeavour.”

The UK Space Agency is opening new headquarters at the Harwell Science Campus’ Space Cluster in Oxfordshire and regional offices in Scotland, Wales and the Midlands as it works to support the space sector across the UK. 

The new structure will create significant opportunities to build on high-growth areas, such as Earth observation and satellite broadband. It will also help the UK establish early leadership in emerging markets such as in‑orbit spacecraft servicing, active space debris removal, and the new lunar economy, enabling us to help forge a greener, smarter and more inclusive sector. 

Dr Paul Bate (second left), CEO of the UK Space Agency on a visit to Space Park Leicester

Dr Paul Bate, CEO of the UK Space Agency (second left), said: “This is a transformational moment for the UK Space Agency, responding directly to the feedback that the Agency should be embedded in the sector. Our new headquarters, located at the UK’s biggest space cluster in Harwell, will connect to new regional offices in Leicester, Edinburgh and Cardiff, and our existing London and Swindon teams, helping us recruit space talent from across the nation and deliver the National Space Strategy.

“Space Park Leicester is a vital part of both Space City Leicester and the broader Midlands Space Cluster, with both a national and international focus. As the city’s hub for space research and innovation, since opening in 2022, it’s crucial we nurture Space Park Leicester’s skills and expertise and connect them with the wider sector to ensure we continue this journey.”