Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum 96

Supplementary submission from the British National Space Centre (BNSC)


  1.  The Committee requested a note on current negotiations with third countries.

  2.  The object of BNSC's high level engagements, on behalf of the UK, is to assist UK companies and scientists to develop cooperation, in support of science and policy objectives. Many BNSC partners have also developed regular bilateral contacts, and these are not covered in this note, because they are normally not space specific.

  3.  Space is essentially an international and global activity. BNSC depends on the advice and reporting it receives from the FCO staff in the Science and Innovation Network based in all the main space faring countries. On the export side, BNSC works with UK Trade and Investment and the commercial staff in Posts worldwide to develop new markets and opportunities. BNSC is grateful for the help it receives from our Embassies, Consulates, and other Posts.

  4.  BNSC and its partners have contact with many countries. Those currently active for BNSC are listed below.


  5.  With strong support from industry, BNSC and the China National Space Administration (CNSA) agreed a framework Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which was signed by Lord Sainsbury and CNSA Administrator in January 2005. Officials met later in that year to develop specific actions and held a space technology workshop March 2006 in China. A coordinated approach through BNSC involving all partners including industry and academia has been pursued.

  6.  The UK-China Space Science & Technology Working Group met in the UK in November 2006. Experts discussed possible science and technology cooperation and possible exchanges of staff and students. The next UK-China Working Group Meeting is planned for March in Shanghai. A visit by CNSA Administrator in December 2006 was postponed at their request but is expected to be reinstated. RCUK has now agreed to open an office in China and BNSC will work with this office as well as the Embassy in the future.


  7.  BNSC and the India Space Research Organisation (ISRO) signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 1997. The Joint Prime Ministerial Declaration signed in September 2004 agreed to expand co-operation in civil space programmes. The British High Commission held a workshop with ISRO on 28-30 March 2006 in Ahmedabad on Earth Observation for Weather and Climate. This followed a similar workshop in 2004. A BNSC official will speak at a conference hosted by ISRO in New Delhi in March and we will look to a fuller meeting with ISRO thereafter. BNSC will attend the International Astronautical Federation conference in Hyderabad in September. We are actively engaged with the Post in supporting a specific industry initiative in India.


  8.  Professor Yetis, the Acting President of Tubitak (the Turkish Office of Science and technology) visited the UK in March at the invitation of Lord Sainsbury and proposed a bi-lateral workshop in Turkey to identify opportunities for collaboration in space technologies and more widely. This was held in Turkey in November 2006 to bring together interested parties to exchange ideas and to ultimately look at areas of collaboration in space technologies and showcase UK capabilities. The Minister has asked BNSC to enter into discussions regarding a Memorandum of Understanding.


  9.  With strong support from industry and academia, the Office of Science and Innovation (OSI) and the Korean Ministry of Science & Technology (MOST) agreed a framework MOU which was signed by Lord Sainsbury and MOST in October 2002. Officials met later in the year to develop specific actions and have held a series of space science and technology workshops during the period 2003-06 in both the UK and in Korea. A coordinated approach through BNSC, led by RAL and involving all partners including industry and academia has been pursued.


  10.  BNSC has no general agreement with the USA, but interacts with counterparts in a number of agencies and fora. These cover Science, Earth Applications and international bodies such a the International Disaster Charter. The BNSC Director General met the NASA Administrator, Dr Michael Griffin on 18 July 2006 and it was agreed to develop closer contact. Malcolm Wicks met Dr Griffin on 30 November and discussed a possible UK role in the development of a Global Exploration Strategy.


  11.  With strong support from industry, Lord Sainsbury on behalf of BNSC and the Algerian Space Agency (ASAL) signed a framework MOU on 19 July 2006 to develop cooperation in civil space. This will be followed by a meeting at official level.


  12.  The UK signed a civil space co-operation agreement with the USSR in 1987. This was taken over by Russia and is still in force. There is also a science and technology agreement which covers space. BNSC is currently looking at these arrangements, and in particular whether the agreements can enable lower cost access to launchers.


  13.  BNSC and the Japanese space agency (then NASDA, now JAXA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding in April 1997 on Earth observation. Discussions were held with JAXA in July 2006 to consider further bilateral cooperation. BNSC and the British Embassy are working to arrange a space technology workshop to take place in May. Existing UK links with JAXA on various missions include most recently on an observational satellite with three advanced solar telescopes (Hinode). The British Embassy in Tokyo will organise an aerospace event in May with space as one of the four parallel sessions.


  14.  2007 is the UK-Brazil Year of Science & Innovation. A series of events in being planned with Brazil during 2007, including one on Space Science & Technology in November.


  15.  BNSC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Argentinian Space Agency, CONAE, in October 1998. At a recent international Plenary meeting on Earth Observation (CEOS) held in Buenos Aires in November there was an opportunity for a short interaction between BNSC and CONAE and a briefing with Embassy staff.


  16.  These bilateral links are in the context of the main focus of the UK's civil space cooperation through the European Space Agency (ESA) and EUMETSAT (the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites). ESA and EUMETSAT have contacts with many space faring nations and develop programmes in which British scientists and companies participate (primarily ESA) and co-ordinate involvement in meteorological and related programmes (EUMETSAT). BNSC also engages with the European Commission.

  17.  BNSC and its partners also work with many countries in a number of multilateral fora, including the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS: over 60 countries), the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (11) and discussions on a Global Exploration Strategy (14).

January 2007

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