A MAJOR investment into the ‘heart’ of the UK’s space sector will see Oxfordshire house a £99m research hub.

Harwell Science and Innovation Campus was hailed for ‘global excellence’ as the Government announced funding for a new satellite testing centre on site.

Universities and science minister Jo Johnson visited UK Space Gateway at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) yesterday, unveiling plans to cement the country’s status as a world-leader in the space industry.

He said: “This facility will help UK companies be more competitive in the global market for space technology, and support the Government’s ambition to capture 10 per cent of the global space market by 2030.”

Speaking at the campus in Chilton near Didcot, Mr Johnson stressed the space sector underpins industries worth more than £250bn to the UK economy.

He told the Oxford Mail: “This facility is going to be great for Oxfordshire. Harwell is already a nationally-recognised phenomenon.

“It is a global centre of excellence and exceptionally important. Harwell is at the very heart of the industry.

“Companies working in this area need additional help to ensure the next generation of development is right here in the UK.”

The National Satellite Testing Facility will be built next to current research facilities at RAL Space, and will be funded by a Government pot called the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

It is due to open in 2020 but it is not yet clear how many jobs it will create.

Mr Johnson said: “Space is relevant to our daily lives in every aspect. It impacts everything from the way we drive, using sat navs, to the way we communicate using phones. Space might feel abstract and far away, but it touches everything we do.”

Engineers will assemble and test satellites at the new facility, which will allow for the creation of larger, more advanced satellites on UK soil.

An estimated 3,500-10,000 satellites are due to be launched from Earth by 2025.

Graham Turnock, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said the investment will ‘enhance the capability’ of the UK space industry and attract new business.

Sarah Beardsley, head of the space, engineering and technology division at RAL Space, described the announcement as ‘phenomenally exciting’. She added: “It opens up many more opportunities for scientists and employment. The space sector is massively important.”

Last year astronaut Major Tim Peake told the Oxford Mail the Harwell campus was a 'central hub' of scientific discovery, but highlighted the need for more investment and infrastructure.

Brian Bowsher, chief executive of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, said the Government's investment was a 'fantastic recognition' of the UK space industry's reputation.