FARNBOROUGH — Lockheed Martin says it will open a new space technology office in the U.K. this year to explore partnership opportunities with British companies and universities.

The U.K. government estimates the space sector in Britain contributes £11.3 billion ($19 billion) to the nation’s economy each year, a figure expected to grow to £40 billion by 2030. As part of Lockheed Martin’s expanding business footprint in the U.K., the new technology office is to be based at the new Space Gateway center in Harwell, Oxford.

"The U.K. government is making a major investment in creating an environment where space companies can prosper, and the U.K. has a very talented workforce," says Richard Ambrose, executive vice president of Denver-based Lockheed Martin Space Systems. "We’re going to couple our 50-year legacy with Lockheed Martin in space with what the U.K. has been doing, especially in the smallsat area and payloads. We think we can bring together the best of the two environments as we go forward."

Ambrose says the office—which is expected to open by the end of this year—will be staffed with up to 10 people initially, but is expected to grow to several hundred. He said key technology areas such as remote sensing, climate monitoring, space weather, global security and mobile communications are all areas where the U.S. and Britain have compatible interests.

"Initially we’ll partner with companies that are here, but given the growth opportunity we see, the goal is to create a Lockheed Martin U.K. company here that could work and also partner with other corporations," he said. "We’ll couple our expertise with what some of the companies and universities are doing with technologies here, whether it be Surrey [Satellite Technology Ltd.] or Qinetiq or others."

Space exploration is another area where Lockheed Martin sees potential for collaboration, notably with the European Space Agency (ESA), which last year established the European Center for Space Applications and Telecommunications at Harwell. ESA is currently developing a service module with Airbus Defense and Space that will fly on NASA’s Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle in development at Lockheed Martin.

"There could be some other capabilities we could bring to bear with U.K. companies in that direction as well," Ambrose said.

With headquarters in London, Lockheed Martin U.K. employs more than 3,000 people at 20 sites in Britain, working on a range of aerospace, defense and civil programs.

Ambrose said Lockheed met recently with some 30 British companies, universities and government agencies as part of a nationwide space-industry tour that included both Harwell and the Institution of Engineering and Technology in Glasgow.

"We think it’s just better to partner with people who have certain expertise than recreate it yourself," Ambrose said, adding that Lockheed outsources 60% of its development and production to vendors. "I would expect that model to apply here."

David Parker, chief executive of the U.K. Space Agency, said he is encouraged by Lockheed Martin’s plans.

"We have identified space as one of the eight great technologies that will push the U.K. economy forward and have set some ambitious targets to capture 10% of the global space market by 2030," Parker said here during a July 15 news conference, at which the U.K. government unveiled plans to develop a commercial spaceport by 2018. "Lockheed Martin’s heritage, knowledge and expertise can only help strengthen the U.K. supply chain, making Britain more competitive for the challenges ahead."