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Space research roles agreed

The Science and Technology Facilities Council and the UK Space Agency have reached agreement on their responsibilities for organising Britain’s space science programme.

The STFC is ceding parts of its role in the wake of the establishment of the UKSA to coordinate aspects of space activities that could result in commercial benefits. The organisation was established in March 2010 and became an executive agency of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in April 2011.

Under the new agreement, the STFC will retain responsibility for administering research grants for projects leading to the exploitation of astronomy and space science within its scientific remit. That includes support for blue sky and generic technologies related to the needs of space instrumentation or computing.

STFC will also maintain its central role in funding the training of young space scientists.

It will continue to administer studentships and fellowships in space science and astronomy, including training related to the instrumentation for space missions but excluding the Aurora cross-disciplinary studentships.

Ground-based astronomy projects will remain part of the STFC’s responsibilities, including organising projects focussed on the development of new detector technologies and associated software.

The council will also retain its role in communicating with the public and industry on space science issues, through space science outreach schemes and the STFC Knowledge Exchange programmes.

The UKSA will assume responsibility for research grants and awards relating to design and construction of space mission instruments or software and systems related to space missions.

It will also take care of grants and awards relating to post-launch support, training awards made under the Aurora programme and development work on exploiting the findings made through the Aurora initiative.

Other duties will include contributing to the work of the European Space Agency and running its own response mode outreach programmes and knowledge exchange activities.