The UK Space Agency has signed a “historic agreement” with Nasa to help support its forthcoming Moon missions.
Businesses across the UK will be involved in designing and building the Lunar Gateway, a space station that will orbit the Moon and serve as a communication hub and science laboratory, as well as a short-term habitation module.
The lunar space station is expected to play a major role in Nasa’s Artemis programme, which aims to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024.
The UK has already committed more than £16 million for the first phase of its design.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “The prospect of the first woman landing on the Moon in the coming years will be a source of inspiration for thousands of young people across the UK who may be considering a career in space or science.
“Today’s historic agreement, backed by £16 million of UK funding, underlines our commitment to strengthening the UK’s role in the global space sector, building on our existing strengths in satellites, robotics and communications to grow our economy and improve life on Earth.”
Along with the UK, Nasa is also working with other nations including Japan, Australia, Canada, Italy and the UAE, to develop the Artemis Accords – a framework for space exploration that ensures a “shared understanding of safe operations, use of space resources, minimising space debris, and sharing scientific data”.
Nasa’s international partnerships with the UK and other countries will play a key role in achieving a safe and sustainable human presence on the Moon, the UK Space Agency said.
Chief executive Graham Turnock, who signed the Artemis Accords during a virtual ceremony at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), said: “Signing the Accords is a strong signal of our intent to take a leading global role in civil space.
“We hope to deepen our relationship with the US when it comes to space and enhance the UK’s global influence in the space sector.
“This exciting step could open up new opportunities for UK companies and scientists to be part of Nasa missions to the Moon and Mars.”