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by Sofia Villegas
25 October 2023
UK astronauts to form part of groundbreaking space mission

Tejpaul Bhatia, chief revenue officer at Axiom Space (left) and Paul Bate, chief executive of the UK Space Agency | UK Space Agency

UK astronauts to form part of groundbreaking space mission

A group of UK astronauts could go to space as part of a future Axiom space mission. 

The opportunity stems from a recent agreement between the UK Space Agency (UKSA) and the Houston-based company, which will send astronauts into low-Earth orbit for two weeks.  

The announcement comes as science minister George Freeman opened the London Stock Exchange today, as he advocates for more investment into the UK space sector.  

Freeman 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.”   

During the mission, astronauts will carry out research, demonstrate new technologies and participate in educational activities including the national space education ad public engagement programmes.

UKSA has invited academic institutions and industry to share ideas on experiments and technology demonstrations that the crew could conduct during their time away.   

The agency is also looking for ideas on how to highlight the range of career opportunities within the STEM sector, as part of the educational programmes.  

UKspace president 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." 

The mission would build on the UK government’s National Space Strategy and the national science and technology framework. The scheme highlights how international relationships can contribute to the UK’s capabilities in five critical technologies including AI, engineering biology and quantum technologies. 

Michael Suffredini, chief executive of Axiom Space added: “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.”  

Currently working on end-to-end missions to the International Space Station, Axiom Space's new station will be the first-ever commercial space station in low-Earth orbit, and it will work to sustain human life outside the planet. 

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