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Nasa deal for UK defence firm Qinetiq

The Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center
Image caption Qinetiq will be providing engineering and lab support at Nasa's Kennedy Space Center in Florida

UK defence technology firm Qinetiq has won a contract to provide engineering services for US Space Agency Nasa's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The deal is for at least five years, with options for a further three, and is worth up to $2bn (£1.25bn).

Under the terms of the deal, Qinetiq will provide mainly ground operations and engineering support.

Qinetiq's North American arm will provide the services, and is expected to start in March 2011.

Cutbacks

Qinetiq was formed from the previously state-owned Defence Evaluation and Research Agency and was floated on the London stock market in February 2006.

Defence firms in the UK - where Qinetiq employs about 6,000 people - have been facing tougher times given recent cuts to defence spending.

The company also has a large operation in the US, and this is not the first co-operation between Qinetiq and the American space agency. As a private contractor, Qinetiq focuses on support functions to NASA's wider operations.

However, NASA has also been affected by government cutbacks. A programme to send astronauts to the Moon and even Mars has been cancelled, while the agency's fleet of Space Shuttles has been retired.

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