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Engineers one step closer to building UK spaceports

Uk spaceport 3to2

The UK may soon be looking for engineers to design and build a new set of spaceports, as the new Space Industry Bill gets Royal Assent.

The new law will allow the UK to compete in the commercial space race using UK spaceports to launch small satellites and scientific experiments.

It is also envisaged the ports will allow the UK to take advantage of future technology such as hypersonic flight and high-speed point to point transport, including space tourism.

The government said by building the UK’s own spaceports it would allow it to tap into the rapidly expanding launch market thought to be worth an estimated £10bn over the next decade.

In February, the government announced up to £10M of grant funding for the development of commercial spaceflight, including designing and building spaceports.

Six potential sites in the UK have been identified by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority as potential locations for the ports. These are Campbeltown, Glasgow Prestwick and Stornoway in Scotland, as well as Newquay in England and Llanbedr in Wales. RAF Leuchars near Fife in Scotland could also be a potential temporary facility.

Current space activity law is based on the Outer Space Act from 1986. However, the government said this did not now provide a “regulatory framework which would cover commercial space travel or the development of a spaceport in the UK and the risks to safety and security that such facilities and services would pose.”

The new Bill is set to cover both orbital and sub-orbital – a space flight which doesn’t complete a full revolution - activities, and horizontal and vertical launches carried out in the UK.

UK Space Agency chief executive Graham Turnock said the new Bill meant the sky was 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.

“Currently UK firms rely on a limited supply of launches in other countries which leaves them vulnerable to launch delays. The Space Industry Bill will help to increase the supply of launch services closer to home, and capture a share of growing global launch demand.”

One in four of all telecoms satellites are currently substantially built in Britain. The government said it hoped, through its Industrial Strategy and by working with industry, to increase its global share of the space sector from 6.5% to 10% by 2030.

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