Britain could launch its first commercial spaceflights by 2020

Glasgow Prestwick Airport considered a frontrunner for the country’s first spaceport site

HI-SEAS

[NASA/University of Hawaii]

The British government has said that it will partner with the UK Space Agency and industry and that a new spaceport will be built on mainland Britain to launch satellites by 2020.

Presently, the UK is a member of the European Space Agency, and joins other European members in observing spacecraft take off from the European spaceport, located in French Guiana in South America.

Now however, Britain could have its very own spaceport located on its mainland.

The announcement by the British government of plans to build its own spaceport comes as a key strand of the government’s Industrial Strategy for the UK to hold a greater share of the commercial spaceflight market, worth an estimated £25 billion over the next 20 years.

They plan to develop competitive, commercial and safe spaceflight proposals for UK-based satellite launch services and sub-orbital flights.

Potential UK spaceports and spaceflight vehicle operators are being invited to provide their business cases for funding to develop key technologies or infrastructure in the UK.

The UK Space Agency has made grants worth £10 million available to help develop the capability for spaceflight.

According to The National in Scotland, Glasgow Prestwick Airport is a front-runner in the race for the country’s first spaceport, following on from last year's news that the airport had signed an agreeent with Houston Spaceport share resources and information on future missions.

The length of the runways and coastal take-off routes are said to be in Prestwick's favour, although seven other potential regional spaceports gave presentations this week on why their locations would also be suitable.

 

Before any concrete plans can be decided however, a Spaceflight Bill must be passed by law in order to facilitate and regulate commercial spaceflight, and also for the insurance of running an astronaut training centre.

The Spaceflight Bill was unveiled earlier this week and has been presented to to the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Minister for Aviation Lord Ahmad said "we are boldly legislating where no British government has legislated before."

The UK's Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson added that:

“We really do stand at the dawn of a very exciting era. This is a big and incredibly exhilarating moment for this country."

The new powers unveiled by the British government will allow satellite launches from British soil for the first time for scientific experiments.

New laws paving the way for spaceports in the UK would also allow ‎experiments to be conducted in zero gravity, which could potentially help develop medicines.