Up to £15 million commercial funding could be made available for British science and technology to fly to space, should the proposed mission with Axiom Space proceed, the UK Space Agency announced today.  


Two new funding calls – one for science and another for technology demonstrators – have opened, in preparation for an agreement being reached to fly a team of four British astronauts on a commercially-sponsored mission, potentially to the International Space Station.  

While the commercial funding for projects is dependent on the mission proceeding, the UK Space Agency is giving scientists, innovators, and businesses the opportunity to submit proposals now to maximise the benefits of a mission in the near term.  

Huge potential

Andrew Griffith MP, Minister for Space at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said:  “There is huge potential for UK businesses to play an increasingly important role in space exploration and the development of new technologies.  

“The £15m funding calls mark a significant stride in our collaborative mission with Axiom Space, and I urge the UK science and technology community to use this opportunity to drive forwards discovery and unleash innovation in critical technologies.” 

Today’s announcement follows the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the UK Space Agency and Axiom Space in October 2023, which outlined the plans to pursue a commercially-sponsored UK astronaut mission, and an initial request for ideas for science and technology. 

Scientific discovery

Annelies Look, UK Space Agency Deputy CEO, said:  “We want to keep the UK space sector at the forefront of scientific discovery and technological innovation, so this has been front and centre of our work with Axiom Space since October.  

“To deliver the maximum potential benefits to the UK, we are opening funding calls for science experiments and technology demonstrators today, ahead of the potential UK astronaut mission.” 

Funding for the Science and Technology demonstrator calls is dependent on the mission going ahead.  

Dr Lucie Low, Chief Scientist for Microgravity Research at Axiom Space, said: “Axiom Space is delighted to support the UK Space Agency in its efforts to solicit impactful scientific and technological development projects that can advance the goals of human exploration of space, as well as bring benefit to citizens on Earth. Our Axiom Space missions to date have enabled researchers from across the globe to utilise the microgravity environment for national research and technology development priorities, and we continue to work together to secure sponsorships for this exciting mission.” 

Science experiments  

The aim of the science call is to support UK-based researchers to design and execute scientific research which uses microgravity and the space environment. Proposals can be from any research area but are encouraged from those that align to the goals of the National Space StrategyUK Science and Technology Framework, and research priorities identified by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). 

The technology demonstrator call will support the UK’s exploration sector to test innovative technologies within a space environment. The UK Space Agency is particularly interested in technologies that support the National Space Capability Goals, the UK Science & Technology Framework and its five critical technologies: Artificial Intelligence; Engineering Biology; Future Telecommunications; Semiconductors; and Quantum Technologies, or that fall under the Agency’s Space Exploration Technology Roadmap categories, which include Advanced Manufacturing, In-Situ Resource Utilisation, Life Support and Crew Performance. 

Commercial spaceflight

UK astronaut Tim Peake, who spent 6 months on board the International Space Station in 2015/16 and, in his ambassadorial role for Space, has been supporting the development of the potential mission with Axiom Space, said:  “The recent Ax-3 mission set a new bar for what commercial human spaceflight can achieve, with important science carried out by the four European astronauts over the course of the more than two-week flight, from research into cancer prevention to studies of plasma physics and botany.   

“It’s fantastic to see the UK Space Agency taking advantage of this new era of commercial human spaceflight and working with Axiom Space and the European Space Agency to put a real focus on high-quality science and innovative technology for the potential UK mission.” 

The UK Space Agency is working with Axiom Space on plans for a commercial mission with the full support of the European Space Agency.