Space launches from UK soil could be possible as soon as next year as the Government prepares to sign off a new space bill by the end of 2021.
The Department for Transport will today publish its response to an industry consultation into space regulation, including on spaceport, launch rules and safety standards.
It comes on the back of the 2018 Space Industry Act, with a space bill expected for final sign off by the end of the year.
Industry figures have been awaiting movement on government space policy as plans for spaceports in the Scottish Highlands, Shetland Islands and Cornwall begin to take shape.
Among the most advanced are plans for a spaceport in Newquay, which will launch Virgin Orbit 747 planes with underwing rockets. These are capable of sending small satellite payloads into orbit.
Melissa Thorpe, chief executive of Spaceport Cornwall, told The Telegraph last month it hoped launches would be possible from next year, having waited for regulations to be brought in.
Most current UK space rules are governed under the 1986 Outer Space Act, which regulates overseas launches, while the 2018 act lays a framework for domestic launches. The Government said that after the new laws are passed, the first space rocket launches from UK soil could have lift off in the early 2020s.
The UK has never launched a full sized space rocket from its territory. The last orbital launcher built in the UK, Black Arrow, lifted off from Australia in the early 1970s.
Among the space ports in contention for launch activity in the UK are Spaceport Cornwall, Prestwick, near Glasgow, Sutherland, the Western Isles and the Shetland Islands.
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, said: “The sky is no longer the limit when it comes to the UK’s ambitions in this sector and today we’re making a giant leap for growth and prosperity for the whole of Great Britain.
“I’m committed to growing the UK’s space industry, and with the most modern piece of space legislation in the world, we are cementing our leading role in this sector, unlocking a new era in commercial spaceflight for all four corners of our nation.”
The space regulation is expected to see the Civil Aviation Authority granted control over UK rocket launch plans.
The Government hopes its plans will create high-skilled jobs for scientists and engineers, as well as provide environmental benefits through observation of weather patterns, climate change monitoring and detection of harmful activities.
It comes after a period of uncertainty for the UK space sector. A review of the sector is expected to see the Business department take control of space policy, while the UK Space Agency is given a role in delivery of projects.
This Article firstly Publish on www.telegraph.co.uk