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Blast off! UK spaceport moves closer to reality

19/03/2018
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A UK-based spaceport could soon become a reality following the signing of the Space Industry Bill which received Royal Assent on the 15th March. The Bill means that British businesses will be able to compete in the commercial space race more effectively, being able to launch satellites from UK soil for the first time in history.
Details about the spaceport are limited, but it is expected that the spaceport would be built to accommodate horizontal launches.
(Artists impression of the UK Spaceport).

The passage of the Bill comes at a time when the emerging markets for small satellite launch and sub-orbital flight are forecast to be worth over £25 billion globally over the next 20 years.

The UK already has a sizeable aerospace sector, with a quarter of all telecoms satellites being substantially built in the UK, with satellite services already supporting more than £250bn of GDP in the wider economy.

At present UK companies have to launch satellites from facilities outside of the country, so this Bill should prove to be a boost for the UK engineering and technical jobs market, as launches begin to take place in-country.

Dr Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, highlighted the job creation potential of the Bill, saying:

“The Space Industry Bill guarantees the sky is not the limit for future generations of engineers, entrepreneurs and scientists. We will set out how we plan to accelerate the development of the first commercial launch services from the UK, and realise the full potential of this enabling legislation over the coming months.”

The Bill sits within the government’s broader Industrial Strategy, which hopes to increase the UK’s global share of the space sector from 6.5% to 10% by 2030.

Details about the potential spaceport are limited, but it is expected that the spaceport would be built to accommodate horizontal launches, whereby a rocket is transported by plane to a high altitude before launching.

Whilst no location for the spaceport has been confirmed, the government did identify eight potential sites in 2014:

  • Newquay Airport.

  • Llanbedr Airport.

  • RAF Leuchars.

  • Campbeltown Airport.

  • Glasgow Prestwick Airport.

  • Kinloss Barracks.

  • Stornoway Airport.

  • RAF Lossiemouth.

  • Following passage of the Bill, the government is now working to create a regulatory structure that ‘empowers innovation, embraces opportunity and ensures launch activity is carried out safely and responsibly in the UK.’

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    Tags: Engineering
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