Historic Space Industry Deal Set for UK and Russia

Britain and Russia’s space industries were due to sign an historic agreement on Wednesday for a new era of cooperation between the countries.

The deal, to be signed at the U.K.’s bi-annual international aerospace exhibition, the Farnborough International Airshow, in southern England, will enable British space companies to capitalize on an expected boom in Russian launches to orbit, following the imminent retirement of the U.S. space shuttle fleet.

“It [the agreement] will resolve some simple commercial issues about customs duties, so that if the Russians buy British space equipment, there be more favorable conditions under the agreement,” David Willetts, the U.K’s Science Minister, told The (London) Times.

Both countries’ space industries would be significantly boosted by the deal, which would also encourage collaboration between British and Russian scientists, Willetts said.

The agreement could also improve the chances that Britain’s first official astronaut, Major Tim Peake, will eventually fly to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

British space scientists welcomed cooperation with Russia. Ken Pounds, Professor of Space Physics at the University of Leicester, said: “There’s a complementarity -- Russia is extremely proficient at getting stuff into space and we have a bit of a lead on the high tech equipment, detectors and computers so working together makes sense.”