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Space flights from the UK ready to launch next year


The government hopes it will kickstart the UK space industry (Picture: Getty)

Rocket flights and satellite launches can now launch from the UK, after new space industry regulations came into force.

The rules will allow for a regulated space industry to develop in the UK and be worth a potential ‘£4 billion of market opportunities over the next decade’, according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

The inaugural UK space launch is due to take place next year.

A spacecraft or satellite has never taken off from a European country, according to the Department for Transport (DfT).

European and British space companies currently launch their satellites from further afield, like in French Guiana, or Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Potential UK spaceports include Newquay in Cornwall, Snowdonia in North Wales, and the Western Isles, Glasgow, Machrihanish, Sutherland and Shetland, all in Scotland.

There are a raft of improvements for the UK that could be made by launching satellites here, such as improving satnav systems and monitoring weather patterns and climate change.

Space tourism trips and hypersonic flights – which are faster than the speed of sound – will also eventually launch from the UK, the DfT claimed.

Mr Shapps said: ‘We stand on the cusp of the new commercial space age, and this is the blast-off moment for the UK’s thriving space industry, demonstrating Government’s commitment to put Britain at the global forefront of this sector.

‘These regulations will help create new jobs and bring economic benefits to communities and organisations right across the UK, helping us to level up as we inspire the next generation of space scientists and engineers.’

Space tourism rides, like those provided by Virgin Galactic, could one day launch from the UK (Virgin)

Howard Nye, president of the Royal Aeronautical Society, said it was a ‘landmark day for the UK’s space sector.’

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has been formally appointed as regulator of the UK space industry following 18 months of preparation.

The body announced it is ready to receive applications for launch licences.

Colin Macleod, head of UK space regulation at the CAA, said it has built an ‘experienced team working across policy, engineering and licensing’.

He added: ‘We will act in a safe, secure and sustainable manner to protect the people and property involved, other airspace users and enable a growing and active space industry.’

Safety incidents involving space flights in or over the UK will be investigated by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, which already examines aviation accidents.

Crispin Orr, chief inspector of spaceflight accidents, said: ‘Our inspectors will conduct spaceflight investigations with the same rigour, expertise and professionalism that we are renowned for in aviation.’


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