Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has appointed Lord David Willetts as the chair of the UK Space Agency’s board.

He will work alongside Dr Paul Bate, recently appointed CEO, to maximise opportunities for the sector.

The agency is looking ahead to the UK’s first domestic launch this year. The government also recently published its National Space Strategy, which sets out a long-term commitment to build on the nation’s existing strengths and develop it as a world class space economy.

Previously, Lord Willetts served as Minister for Universities and Science and as the Member of Parliament for Havant, and has held a range of chair and board positions across the space and science sector.

These include chair of the British Science Association, member of the Space Policy Advisory Board for EU External Action Service, the board of UKRI and of the ESA Expert Group on the Future of Space in Europe.

“I am a strong supporter of the UK space sector in all its diversity and am grateful for this new opportunity to serve it,” said Lord Willetts, who has officially taken up the post this month.

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Kwarteng said: “Lord Willetts will bring a wealth of expertise to the role while working with the excellent Paul Bate to deliver on the UK’s space ambitions.

“Our £16.5 billion space sector is a major contributor to a strong and secure UK economy and looking ahead to the first satellite launches from the UK this year, this is an extremely exciting time for the industry across the country.”