UK Space Agency and Axiom Space sign agreement on plans for historic human spaceflight mission

Astronauts from the United Kingdom could fly to space on a future Axiom Space mission, thanks to a new agreement signed between the UK Space Agency and the Houston-based space company.

The agreement between the UK Space Agency and Axiom Space sets out plans for the 2 organisations to work together to pursue a commercially sponsored, UK astronaut mission. The announcement comes as Science Minister George Freeman, is due to open the London Stock Exchange today (25 October), where he will speak about opportunities to bring further investment into the UK space sector. 

On this future flight, the UK astronauts would launch to space, spending up to two weeks on orbit to carry out scientific research, demonstrate new technologies, and participate in education and outreach activities.  

The mission would build on the UK government’s National Space Strategy and the UK Science and Technology Framework, which highlights the important contribution of international relationships to the UK’s capabilities and identifies five critical technologies; Artificial Intelligence, engineering biology, future telecommunications, semiconductors and quantum technologies.

George Freeman MP, Minister of State at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said:

The prospect of a historic UK mission with Axiom Space has the potential to inspire a whole new generation to reach for the stars, while supporting our efforts to build one of the most innovative and attractive space economies in the world, so I look forward to seeing the next stage of this exploratory work develop.

We want to put the UK at the forefront of the global race for commercial space investment, continue to support scientists and engineers to test new technologies and carry out important research and, ultimately, bring the benefits back to people and businesses across the country.

Michael Suffredini, Axiom Space CEO, said:  

Axiom Space is looking forward to working with the UK Space Agency on a future human spaceflight mission. With this agreement as the initial foundation, we will build a comprehensive mission plan in support of the UK’s national and agency objectives to advance its capabilities in space exploration and discovery. Together, we will look to harness the benefits of microgravity and help push the boundaries of innovation to advance our civilisation. 

The UK Space Agency is calling on UK universities, research institutions and industry to share their ideas for experiments and technology demonstrators which could be conducted by the crew on orbit over a two-week period.  

The UK Space Agency is also interested in ideas from UK organisations for a national space education and public engagement programme alongside the mission to highlight the diverse range of rewarding careers available in the space sector, promote STEM uptake, and highlight the powerful role of space in the lives of UK citizens.  

Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said:   

This agreement paves the way for UK astronauts to conduct scientific research in orbit, and to inspire millions of us here on Earth. It takes thousands of people to complete a crewed space mission and return the astronauts safely home, highlighting the huge variety of careers available in the UK space sector right now. There is much to do, and this agreement is the springboard for the UK Space Agency, Axiom Space and the mission sponsors to assess how we best push forward the frontiers of knowledge and innovation, and showcase the power of space to improve lives on Earth.

The UK Space Agency is working with Axiom Space on plans for a commercial mission with the full support of the European Space Agency.  

Daniel Neuenschwander, Director of Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA, said:  

ESA is working on Europe’s preparation of the post-ISS era and the development of a sustainable commercial space economy in Low Earth Orbit. This unique flight will allow ESA to enhance its actions with new partnership schemes and implement together with the United Kingdom a series of research experiments, which will further deepen the knowledge on exploration in and for Europe.

UKspace President, Dr Alice Bunn, said:  Since the first astronauts landed on the Moon over 50 years ago, human spaceflight has captured the imagination of billions of people. But space is no longer for the privileged few; we have witnessed incredible growth in the application of space technology and data to everyday lives, and we recognise the immense and specific value of humans being able to push the boundaries of science and technology operating within the unique conditions of space.  

For this reason, the agreement between the UK Space Agency and Axiom Space is an incredibly exciting one, providing the potential to extend the already significant innovation that our UK space sector is spearheading.

Axiom Space is the commercial space industry’s only full-service orbital mission provider, conducting end-to-end crewed missions to the International Space Station. The expert team at Axiom Space is helping nations and organisations build human spaceflight programs, develop astronaut selection programs, and provide the expertise needed to expand the international community of space explorers to a larger and more diverse representation of humanity.

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