Britain will be able to communicate with astronauts on journeys into deep space for the first time, the UK Space Agency announced Thursday.
British space station Goonhilly in Cornwall, which famously beamed images of the moon landings to millions of television viewers, will be upgraded so as to enable it to provide deep space tracking and satellite communication services, commercially.
The project is to cost 11.7 million U.S. dollars, according to the British space agency.
It will be the first time Britain has had the capability to communicate directly with deep space missions, the space agency said.
Government science minister Sam Gyimah said: "It's fantastic to see the world's first commercial deep space communications network coming to Cornwall."
Gyimah said Britain already played a significant role in satellite manufacturing, with one in four of the world's telecommunications satellites built in Britain.
A spokesperson from UK Space Agency said: "In future, Goonhilly will complement the capability of the European Space Agency (ESA) worldwide ground station network, which today comprises seven core stations supporting more than 20 earth, observatory, planetary and exploration spacecraft as well as European launchers."
The investment will include an upgrade to one of Goonhilly's largest antennas, a 32-meter-diameter antenna built in 1985, to meet the high-end performance and technology requirements needed by the European Space Agency and NASA, as well as private space exploration companies for deep space communications.
Colin Baldwin from the UK Space Agency, said: "Once the upgrade work is complete, Goonhilly will have the ability to track and control forthcoming robotic and human missions to the Moon and Mars, making a significant technical and economic contribution to European efforts in global space exploration."
During the work to upgrade the antenna, which is expected to take two years, qualifying tests will be carried out to include tracking of several deep space missions, including the Mars Express spacecraft which has been in orbit around the Red Planet since 2003.