The UK government aims to be the first country in Europe to launch satellites into space. It has passed legislation to allow licenses for commercial space launches from Cornwall, Scotland and Wales.
The regulations were developed with the UK Space Agency and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) so that rockets can launch from UK soil for the first time.
“This is a pivotal moment for our spaceflight ambitions. Since the start of the spaceflight programme in 2017, we have been clear that we want to be the first country to launch into orbit from Europe,” said UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. “The laying of these regulations puts us firmly on track to see the first UK launches take place from 2022, unlocking a new era in commercial spaceflight,” he said.The Space Industry Regulations will come into force this summer and allow traditional rockets as well as high-altitude balloons and spaceplanes.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise is developing a vertical launch site for satellites in Sutherland which will use a combination of existing and new rocket technologies, backed by the UK division of Lockheed Martin and UK rocket startup Orbex. The spaceport should be operational in the next three years.
The horizontal launch sites will be at Newquay in Cornwall, Glasgow Prestwick in Scotland and Snowdonia in Wales for sub-orbital flights and satellite launches via aircraft.
“In time, we will also start to see new and emerging space activity – including sub-orbital space tourism and eventually new transport systems such as hypersonic flight, which will dramatically reduce aviation travel times,” said Shapps.
“Continuing to grow our launch capability will help bring jobs and economic benefits across the UK. The Space Industry Regulations we’ve tabled today will create a supportive, attractive and safe environment for commercial spaceflight,” said Science Minister Amanda Solloway. “Today marks another crucial milestone that will enable the first launches from British soil in 2022 and make UK commercial spaceflight a reality.”