UK ‘to increase funding to European Space Agency by more than 15 per cent’, claiming it wants to play a ‘full part’ in future missions to the moon and Mars

  • The UK government plans to increase its ESA budget contribute by 15 per cent
  • The FT reports that it will be about £374million per year over the five year plan
  • The funding allows the UK to bid for projects including moon and Mars missions
  • The total European Space Agency budget will be £12billion over five years 

The UK will ‘play a full part’ in the future of the European Space Agency as the government confirms a 15 per cent increase in its annual contribution to the agency budget, according to the Financial Times.

Missions to send astronauts to the moon and bring rock samples back from Mars are all proposed as part of the £12billion European Space Agency (ESA) budget.

The UK is the fourth largest contributor to the ESA budget and currently provides about £300million to the agency each year.

This will go up to £374million per year over five years, which is actually a 24 per cent increase when considering Euro exchange rates, the FT reports.

One of the biggest missions being proposed by ESA will see it work with NASA to bring samples back from the surface of Mars using a rocket launcher on the Red Planet (artists impression) 

Delegations from each of the European Space Agency member nations, including France, Spain, Germany, Italy and the UK are at Space19+ in Seville.

The final budget and details of which countries have won which contracts won’t be announced until Thursday the 28th November after the conference ends. 

‘The UK is fully supportive of ESAs work to evolve and usher in a new era of space’, said Graham Turnock, the UK Space Agency’s chief executive. 

‘Space can help us answer the current global call to arms to tackle climate change’.

Missions to send astronauts to the moon and bring rock samples back from Mars are all proposed as part of the £12billion European Space Agency (ESA) budget

The largest single portion of the ESA budget for the next five years will be spent on scientific projects with £2.48billion allocated to them.

This is closely followed by £2.27billion for space transportation, including the launcher rocket Ariane 6 and the support module for the new NASA moon missions.

UK science minister Chris Skidmore is not attending the talks, but a British delegation is present to discuss how much money the UK will put forward. 

Germany and France are the main contributors to ESA with Germany contributing about £1billion per year and France contributing £792million, although this is expected to increase in line with the new, higher overall budget.

‘Space is changing, we have more than 70 space nations with new powers and new actors including universities’, said Johann-Dietrich Worner, ESA Director General.

During his opening speech Mr Worner said ESA was working with NASA on the Artemis mission to send humans back to the moon and on the proposed Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway.

This is a project to build a space station orbiting the moon that would monitor the lunar surface and help aid crewed missions to our nearest celestial neighbour.

‘The Gateway close to the moon is an important part, it is a pit stop if you want to go to the surface of the moon.

‘We are working on the gateway and we will send European astronauts to the surface of the moon’, he said.

About two-thirds of the satellites orbiting the Earth are dead – about 3,000 of about 4,500 objects – and pose a ‘very big danger’ to the planet, European space ministers were warned at a meeting in Spain (artist’s impression)

Future ESA projects are broken down into four main areas: Science and Exploration, Safety and Security, Applications and Enabling and Support.

This includes work studying space weather, exploration, clearing debris and examining near-Earth objects. There are also projects on future technologies and access to space for private enterprise and academia. 

For the UK to bid on projects it had to inform the European Space Agency of its funding plans in advance of the summit, otherwise it would have to have waited to see what projects were left to bid on after the event.

A space industry executive told the Financial Times: “Not bidding at the summit would put quite a lot at risk. All of the programmes we have been a key part of — the Mars Rover, Copernicus — we wouldn’t be.”

An ESA designed service module will be part of the Orion spacecraft that will take astronauts to the surface of the moon as part of the NASA Artemis mission (artists impression)

The UK is hoping to provide essential communication between the moon and scientists on Earth as multinational plans to build a new space station around the moon get under way. 

The UK Space Agency is bidding for a slice of key activity on the proposed gateway which will also act as a laboratory for studying the lunar surface.

Dr Turnock said: ‘The UK is very interested in Mars sample return and the unit communications on the deep space gateway. 

‘We are very excited about the Lagrange space weather mission, and we welcome support from other member states here today. 

‘And we also agree with the DG (director general) that ESA must be a leader in cleaning up space debris.’


The final budget is dependant on approval from the European Space Agency member states. 

Total budget – £12.21billion

 Basic activities




Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration


 Space Safety Programme


 Safety and Security


 Earth Observation






 Space Transportation


 Scientific Programme




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