It's lift off for government plans to bolster UK space sector as new legal powers could soon send scientists into space

Rebecca Smith
Scientists could soon follow in the footsteps of astronauts and head into space
Scientists could soon follow in the footsteps of astronauts and head into space (Source: Getty)

New powers unveiled this week will allow British scientists to fly to the edge of space to conduct medical experiments.

UK scientists could research and develop vaccines and antibiotics up in space, which grow differently where there is no gravity.

The government said today that the powers will allow the launch of satellites from the UK for the first time, horizontal flights to the edge of space for scientific experiments and the establishment and operation of space ports in regions across the UK. It will unveil a draft Spaceflight Bill later this week proposing legislation to regulate the sector.

Read more: UK space industry is flying high on strong exports

The government's also on the hunt for businesses to propose specific proposals for space launches and is inviting commercial space businesses to bid for funding to help create a space launch market in the UK.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said the developments should allow a commercial spaceflight from a UK spaceport by 2020.

It comes after the government announced £10m of grant funding earlier this month to boost the UK's commercial spaceflight market and create high-skilled jobs.

Read more: Why Elon Musk's next SpaceX rocket launch is the most important yet

Aviation minister Lord Ahmad said:

The UK’s space sector is the future of the British economy. It already employs thousands of people and supports industries worth more than £250m to the economy, and we want to grow it further. Forty years ago, meteorologists couldn’t have imagined the importance of satellites for predicting the weather.

Today over 90 per cent of data used in every forecast comes from a satellite, with hundreds of other applications used in GPS, telecommunications and broadband.

We have never launched a spaceflight before from this country. Our ambition is to allow for safe and competitive access to space from the UK, so we remain at the forefront of a new commercial space age, for the next forty years.

Businesses in the UK currently have to rely on launch services located in other countries, like the US, Japan or India, and often have to share launch vehicles, which can lead to delays and restrictions on where satellites can go.

Top entrepreneurs across the world are working on commercial spaceflight technology with ambitions to make space travel affordable for all. They include Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin.

Related articles